MIAMI (AP) -- Shaquille O'Neal is an All-Star for the 12th time,
and he played like one down the stretch.
Miami led by as many as 17 in the third, then let LeBron James
and the Cavaliers close to 77-76 with 8:31 remaining. But O'Neal
sparked a game-saving 9-0 run with a dunk, and the Heat held on to
send Cleveland to its fourth loss in five road games.
"When we have lapses like that in the game, we just have to dig
deep down and pick it up," said O'Neal, who added 12 rebounds.
"And that's what we did."
James, who, at 20, is the second-youngest player to be named a
starter in All-Star history, finished with 31 points and 10 assists
for Cleveland. Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 23 points and 12 rebounds for
the Cavaliers, who had won eight straight games that followed a
Cleveland had alternated losses and wins in its last 11 games
coming in, and is now 1½ games behind Detroit in the Central
Division. The Cavaliers missed 13 of their final 18 shots from the
"Right now, we're not playing the level of basketball we want
to play," James said. "Down the stretch, we were just not making
Miami trailed for most of the first half, then outscored
Cleveland 18-6 to end the second quarter -- and went on to score the
first 10 points of the third, building a 60-43 lead.
Keyon Dooling, who played the entire second quarter while
Miami's starting guards -- Wade and Damon Jones -- sat on the bench,
had the bulk of his 13 points during that burst for Miami, which
held a 23-9 edge in scoring by backups.
"Keyon was great, particularly in the second quarter," Heat
coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Then we let them back into the game,
but we finished extremely strong."
Cleveland chipped away, and James made a spectacular play to
draw the Cavaliers to 73-65 with 2:08 left in the third.
Defending on the wing, he leaped to snare Damon Jones' pass and
tossed the ball upcourt to Jeff McInnis -- who eventually fed it
back to James for a one-handed slam that he called "one of my
"Damon is my guy. I apologized for it," James said. "I just
tried to elevate, get up and made sure I got the basket."
Said Cleveland coach Paul Silas: "Every night, he's going to
show you something to wow you."
James opened the fourth with a three-point play and, after
Gooden's dunk, added a pair of free throws with 8:31 left to cut
Miami's lead to 77-76 -- capping a 7-0 Cavaliers run to open the
Cleveland got no closer, however. Over the next 2½ minutes, the
Heat restored their 10-point lead and held on from there.
"We fought back, but we just didn't have enough to sustain
it," Silas said.
Drew Gooden had his sixth straight double-double, 10 points and
12 rebounds, for the Cavaliers, who also got 13 points from
Miami's 50-43 halftime lead could have been significantly
larger, but in what's becoming a theme for the Heat, free throw
shooting was a liability. Miami -- the NBA's second-worst foul
shooting team -- missed nine of 19 from the line in the half, but
was a perfect 10-for-10 in the second half.
Ilgauskas hit his first five shots and had 11 points in the
opening 4:44, but foul trouble limited him to three points the rest
of the half. He picked up his third with 6:09 left before halftime.
"Shaq is the best big man in the league," Ilgauskas said.
"You waste so much energy playing against him on defense that you
don't have much left on the offensive end."
Damon Jones played 29 minutes and took no shots. ... Wade
is 4-2 in matchups against James. ... The Heat missed eight of
their first 10 free throws -- not including O'Neal's two bricks that
were waved off for lane violations. ... Cleveland starts a
season-long five-game homestand Saturday against Orlando. The Cavs
play one road game in the next three weeks.