"This one is my fault tonight," he said after the Bobcats beat
Miami 94-92 on Saturday night.
"I've got to get the guys more ready. We took them too lightly,
and I take the blame. As the leader of the team, it's my job to get
the guys fired up. It won't ever happen again."
Too bad the blame didn't really fall on O'Neal.
"He had 26 points and 16 rebounds," Charlotte's Emeka Okafor
said of O'Neal. "I don't know what else he could have done. How
much energy can he possibly bring?"
The reality is this one wasn't O'Neal's fault. The Heat were
flat from the start and had to play catch-up the entire game.
Then, with a chance to tie it at the end of regulation, Dwayne
Wade foolishly attempted a 3-pointer from the corner instead of
looking for an easier shot.
His miss had the Bobcats celebrating all over the court, while
the Heat filed off the floor in shock as Eddie Jones was in Wade's
face lecturing him that the final shot did not have to be a 3.
"He simply did not know the score," Heat coach Stan Van Gundy
said of Wade. "He was the only guy who did not know the score."
Wade, who had 35 points in Miami's 125-115 victory over Phoenix
on Friday night, finished with 19 against Charlotte then struggled
to explain his final shot.
"Stuff just happened so fast I can't even tell you what I was
thinking," Wade said. "When I got the ball, I looked up and was
thinking 3, but at the same time it doesn't matter.
"We had an opportunity to win the game. I hit it and I'm the
hero, but I missed it and I'm not."
Primoz Brezec had a career-high 27 points and 11 rebounds to
lead Charlotte, which had to sweat this one out despite leading
most of the game.
The Bobcats went almost 3 minutes without a basket and watched
the Heat pull to 90-87 during that span. Then Brezec broke the
drought with his biggest basket of the game, an off-balance,
18-foot jumper that gave the Bobcats a 92-87 lead with 57 seconds
"I was just trying to win the game," Brezec said. "We've lost
so many games in the final seconds. We had to get this one, we led
most of the way. I am glad we were able to finish it out."
Wade hit a pair of free throws for the Heat, who had to foul
every time Charlotte got the ball. But Jason Hart and Brevin Knight
went 2-for-4 down the stretch to give Miami a chance.
With Charlotte clinging to a 94-91 lead, Hart fouled Wade, who
went to the line and made his first free throw with 4 seconds to
play. He missed the second and got his own rebound, then tried the
"I felt it was in," Knight said of Wade's shot. "I was ready
to put my head down and say we lost another one. But we finally got
Gerald Wallace finished with 17 points for Charlotte and Okafor
had 12 before leaving with a sprained left ankle late in the third
quarter. Jason Kapono had 11 points and Knight had 16 assists.
Despite having just 15 wins in their first season, the Bobcats
have made a habit of beating some of the better teams in the league
at home. Aside from wins over Minnesota, Houston and Denver,
Charlotte also has victories over defending NBA champion Detroit
and now the Heat.
This one may have been a question of good timing for Charlotte,
which has now won three of its last four games. The Heat were
coming in off that emotional victory over Phoenix.
The game against the Suns was for the best overall record in the
NBA, and Van Gundy admitted before the Charlotte game that he was
worried about a Heat letdown.
He backed off that after the game.
"The back-to-back thing in this league is nothing but an
excuse," Van Gundy said. "We simply got outplayed."
The Bobcats sold out the game for the third time this
season. ... Even with a chance to win an NBA title now that he
plays for the Heat, Steve Smith said before the game he enjoyed his
time with the expansion Bobcats. "I was happy in Charlotte," said
Smith, who was traded to Miami on Feb. 24. "Both situations are
great for me." ... Told Big East school West Virginia had just
been eliminated from the NCAA tournament, Okafor let out a shout of
disappointment right before the game began. ... The crowd gave a
boisterous ovation to Mourning, a former Charlotte Hornets, when he
checked into the game.