MIAMI (AP) -- Even Miami's most lopsided win of the season wasn't
enough to impress Shaquille O'Neal.
Damon Jones had 13 points and five assists, and O'Neal added 12
points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes for the Eastern
Conference-leading Heat (30-12), who won for the third time in
seven games and improved to 9-9 against teams from the West.
"This really isn't a game we really should be proud of,"
O'Neal said. "This game is liking taking your kids to the zoo.
You're supposed to take your kids to the zoo. You're a father. So a
team like that, we're supposed to beat them like this."
Any intrigue from the first matchup between the teams since the
Heat beat the Hornets in Game 7 of last year's Eastern Conference
quarterfinals was gone early.
New Orleans hit its first two shots, taking a 5-2 lead before
the onslaught began. Miami, which made its first seven shots,
scored 14 straight points to open what became a 29-4 run over a
"We knew they were going to come after us," Hornets coach
Byron Scott said. "We prepared our guys and told them what they
were going to do. We just didn't react very well to them. We put
ourselves in a hole, and you can't climb out of a hole that deep."
After one quarter, it was 37-13. With 2:15 left in the half, it
was 53-19 -- which, at that point, was the Heat's largest lead of
the season. By the third quarter, Miami's lead hit 40 points.
"We came out and played well early," said Heat coach Stan Van
Gundy. "They struggled early, and that was it."
Dan Dickau had 16 points for the Hornets, an NBA-worst 7-33.
Miami's 56-25 halftime lead matched the franchise's largest
after two quarters -- plus marked the lowest scoring first-half in
Hornets' franchise history; Charlotte had 27 at halftime in
Minnesota on Nov. 9, 1990.
"We were really progressing, but tonight was a step backward,"
said Dickau, whose team had won two straight coming in. "You want
to give them all the credit because they played well, but we didn't
play well at all. It's a learning process, I guess. They're the
best team in the East, and we have a lot of things to learn."
Udonis Haslem's dunk off a lob from Wade gave Miami 37 points
with 3.6 seconds left in the first quarter; New Orleans didn't
reach the 37-point mark until Rodney Rogers' layup with 4:14 left
in the third quarter -- a basket that made it 72-38.
Van Gundy went with an all-reserve lineup for the final 15
minutes; with 8 minutes left in the fourth, a smattering of fans
who remained chanted "We want Wang! We want Wang!"
A minute later, the lightly used Wang Zhi-Zhi entered the game --
to the loudest cheers of the night. And even O'Neal was grinning at
that point, but wasn't exactly joyous when it was over.
"I'll be impressed," he said, "when we blow a good team
Miami's previous high for margin of victory this season was
24, against Chicago on Dec. 3. ... Heat G Eddie Jones left the game
in the third quarter with lower back spasms and did not return.
Jones missed a shootaround last week with the same problem. ... The
Hornets, who were looking for their first three-game winning streak
of the season, fell to 0-7 in what they call their "Mardi Gras
Gold" uniforms. ... Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was
courtside, sitting in the seat normally used by Heat owner Micky
Arison. A-Rod stayed until the end, unlike thousands of other fans.
... The Hornets haven't shot 50 percent from the field in any game
this season; they connected on 33.3 percent of their shots Sunday,
and scored fewer than 100 points for the 37th time in 40 games.