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Heat suffer fifth straight loss

2/10/2004

MIAMI (AP) -- Derek Fisher caught a long outlet pass, then sent a
backward, between-his-legs bounce pass to Gary Payton for an
uncontested layup in the waning seconds.

It wasn't the only thing Fisher made look easy Tuesday night.

Fisher went on a personal 8-0 run over a 2:28 span of the fourth
quarter, capping off his season-high 18-point effort and lifting
the Los Angeles Lakers past the Miami Heat 98-83.

Miami never led in the second half, yet clawed its way within
one on three separate occasions -- the last coming on Rafer Alston's
3-pointer with 7:17 remaining, a shot that brought the Heat within
78-77.

Fisher scored the next eight, and the Lakers never looked back
in recording consecutive wins for the first time since mid-January.

"I had to wait for some opportunities to come around," Fisher
said. "I worked up a sweat and I felt good. I like playing here.
I'm from Arkansas. Humidity is my friend. Once I got loosened up, I
felt pretty good."

Shaquille O'Neal had 25 points and Payton and Devean George each
had 17 for the Lakers, who overcame an early 14-point deficit.
O'Neal had 19 of his points in the second half on 9-for-12
shooting, saying he was sparked by a back-and-forth series with
Heat reserve Malik Allen.

A bit of jostling resulted in a double technical for both
players, and O'Neal scoring 10 points in a brief third-quarter
flurry.

"He awokened a sleeping giant. I know that's not a word,"
O'Neal said.

Dwyane Wade had 19 points for Miami, which dropped its fifth
straight -- the team's worst slide since opening the season with
seven consecutive losses. Miami (21-32) is now a season-worst 11
games under .500, and dropped two games behind idle Boston in the
race for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.

Lamar Odom narrowly missed a triple-double, finishing with 13
points, 11 rebounds and eight assists for Miami. Eddie Jones also
had 13 for the Heat, which was outrebounded 44-37.

"I take this loss on myself," Odom said. "I've got to have a
much better, much more productive game than that. I wasn't Lamar
tonight. I let this one get away."

The Lakers were again without All-Star guard Kobe Bryant, who
missed his seventh game because of a lacerated right index finger.
Ultimately, they didn't need him.

O'Neal, who at 7-foot-1, 340 pounds was at least three inches
taller and 85 pounds heavier than anyone the Heat called upon to
guard him, did most of his damage from in close -- as usual.

But he secured the win with an open-court steal and breakaway
dunk with 1:17 left, giving the Lakers their first double-digit
lead of the night, 94-83 -- part of a game-ending 20-6 run that
began with Fisher's scoring spree.

Miami could have tied the game at 80 with 6:33 left, but Eddie
Jones' 3-pointer failed to beat the shot clock. The Heat never was
that close again.

"We did not execute at all offensively going down the
stretch," Miami coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We came out of two
timeouts and didn't even run what we were supposed to run. And our
rebounding is becoming a major problem. It's been a major strength
all year and now we're getting absolutely crushed."

Miami started quickly, scoring on 11 of its first 13 possessions
and opening a 23-9 lead. Almost as quickly, the Heat went cold,
missing their next 10 field goal attempts and going scoreless for a
stretch of more than six minutes -- during which the Lakers went on
a 15-0 run for a 24-23 lead.

In the first eight minutes of the half, the Heat shot 69.2
percent and scored 23 points. They shot just 39.0 percent the rest
of the game.

"After a very mediocre start, when we built a big hole for
ourselves, I thought we played 40 minutes of very good
basketball," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.

Game notes
Without Bryant, the Lakers are 7-7. ... The teams missed
all 21 shots from 3-point range they tried in their last meeting;
they combined to shoot 11-for-27 on Tuesday. ... A man wearing an
O'Neal jersey was ejected in the third quarter for throwing a beer
at the Heat mascot, Burnie -- but not before the mascot retaliated
by dousing the man with a large squirt gun. After Burnie's revenge,
security guards escorted the fan out.