O’Neal Leads Rally, Heat Top Pacers
Miami 96, Indiana 91
MIAMI, March 27 (Ticker) -- Shaquille O'Neal's rare solid effort at the free-throw line helped the Miami Heat get what seemed to be an even rarer win over the Indiana Pacers.
O'Neal connected on eight of his 11 free throws in the second half and scored 16 of his 23 points after the break to lead the Heat to just their second win in 16 games against the Pacers, 96-91.
However, O'Neal was solid Monday, making 11-of-14 attempts to help Miami (47-23) move closer to its second straight Southeast Division title.
"I'm not worried (about them)," O'Neal said of making shots from the line. "When I have to make them, (I make them)."
"Shaq got to the line and hit his free throws," Pacers swingman Stephen Jackson said. "That was the biggest thing."
The Pacers held the Heat to just 4-of-28 (14 percent) shooting from the floor in the second quarter to turn a 29-28 lead into a 53-42 bulge at the break.
The period was highlighted by Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal, who scored 17 points in his second game back from a torn groin muscle, getting involved in a shoving match while fighting for a rebound with Miami's Udonis Haslem with 5:25 to play in the first half. Haslem was ejected.
"(Haslem) needs to shut his mouth. I don't think I did anything wrong," Jermaine O'Neal said. "He had my arm, he tried to pin my arm back. I don't know when he became tough, but all of a sudden he's tough. It's in his best interest to concentrate on getting the rebound and being quiet. I'm not the right person for that to be honest. .. He can call me, he knows where I am."
"I'll never forget him pulling me down by my neck in a game (earlier this season) and the referee calling a foul on me," Haslem said. "Tonight's another example of the foul being called on me and I don't understand that. ... I said one thing to the ref, 'That was a terrible call.' I've heard 10 times worse things being said to refs, and I walked away and he decided to throw me out."
Heat coach Pat Riley, no stranger to rough and physical play by teams under his tenure, cited that it's the nature of the game for tensions to be escalated.
"Teams are going to start becoming nastier and more competitive and they want it, and they are getting ready to start the playoffs," he said. "That's just the way it is. When they happen you have to walk away from it and play at a higher level."
Jackson scored 19 of his 22 points in the opening half for Indiana, which opened its biggest lead at 58-44 early in the third quarter.
Behind Shaquille O'Neal and Jason Williams, who scored 11 points apiece in the third quarter, the Heat rallied to tie the game at 71-71 entering the final period.
"We gathered ourselves really well in the third quarter and played really well," Riley said.
"(Williams) played well and shot the ball well and took it to the hole a couple of times," Shaquille O'Neal said. "He's feeling good right now and we're going to need that."
Dwyane Wade, who scored nine of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, gave the Heat the lead for good with his third 3-point play of the game with 3:50 left to make it 86-83.
After a pair baskets by Miami rookie Wayne Simien, Shaquille O'Neal helped seal the win by scoring the Heat's next five points in the final two minutes.
"It was a rough game," Wade said. "We knew we could still win the game even when they were up by 10 or 11 points. We had confidence."
"Obviously when Dwyane drove baseline, Jermaine was supposed to help," Jackson said. "Those are just tough plays."
Peja Stojakovic scored 19 points for the Pacers (35-34), who fell one-half game behind Washington (35-33) for fifth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race.