(55-19, 23-14 away)
(17-55, 11-25 home)
7:00 PM ET, April 2, 2005
Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Miami Heat coach Stan Van Gundy has no problems with Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade dominating teams like the struggling New Orleans Hornets. He's just wondering whether that formula will work as well in the playoffs.
"They've had a couple of those (performances) and lately it's been a lot of them," Van Gundy said. "I want them to continue to play that well, but we need to start getting some more production out of other people."
O'Neal had 34 points and 15 rebounds, Wade scored 33, and the pair combined for about a dozen dunks to help the Heat defeat the Hornets 111-99 on Saturday night. Miami needs only one more victory or a Detroit loss to seal up the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Wade and O'Neal entered the game averaging a combined 47.1 points -- a mark they surpassed in the third quarter, when the Heat lead by as many as 20.
"I would say yes, by far," O'Neal said.
Hornets coach Byron Scott even acknowledged that his players "were intimidated by those two guys."
Damon Jones played his part, too, helping Miami open the large lead with three 3-pointers in the third quarter. He finished with 22 points. But Miami did most of its scoring inside (64 points), and shot 55 percent as a result.
"We're one of the best in the league in points in the paint, but tonight we were dominant inside and that's going to be tough to beat," Van Gundy said.
Hornets centers Jamaal Magloire and Chris Andersen tried to defend O'Neal cleanly -- sending him to the foul line only seven times -- but posed few problems for the imposing center, who routinely spun by or muscled through them for dunks and easy layups.
"In this millennium that we live in, the 'Hack-a-Shaq' has proven not to work," O'Neal said. "It might work a couple games every now and then, but when it comes to the playoffs or a championship series, it doesn't work -- not at all."
P.J. Brown scored a season-high 21 in a rare reserve role for New Orleans, while Speedy Claxton added 18. Dan Dickau scored 14 and Andersen and Casey Jacobsen each scored 13 as New Orleans shot 50 percent. But the Hornets were outrebounded 39-25 and trailed by double-digits for nearly all of the second half.
"I was trying to be a floor leader, trying to be aggressive, trying to make my open shots," Brown said.
But it hardly mattered when the Hornets had no answer for O'Neal and Wade on the other end.
"They're just hard to stop. They're the best one-two tandem in the league," Brown said. "And the both of them are real good players, put a lot of pressure on the offense. That's very tough to handle."
Wade helped Miami set the tone right away, driving the baseline for a dunk for the game's first score. He had two more driving dunks in the first 6:30 of the game. O'Neal also had two dunks -- Miami's basket of choice for six of its first seven field goals, the other being a fast break layup.
With 7:21 still remaining in the first half, Wade had already dunked four times, tipped in an alley-oop pass and had 24 points in helping Miami build a 39-31 lead.
"I just wanted to attack right away. I got a couple to the rim and I was right there so I decided to dunk it," Wade said.
Wade then went to the bench and O'Neal started scoring relentlessly, following a short jump hook with four more dunks -- one of them a one-handed alley-oop throw down over the back of the 6-foot-11 Andersen.
O'Neal ended up with 17 points by the end of the second quarter, helping Miami to a 54-44 halftime lead.
O'Neal said he sees a correlation between the fortunes of the Red Sox following their trade of Babe Ruth to the Yankees and the Los Angeles Lakers following their trade of him to Miami. Miami has become a favorite to win the Eastern Conference while the Lakers are in danger of missing the playoffs. "The curse of the Shaq-bino. That's what it is," O'Neal said, offering a subtle smile. ... O'Neal, a local favorite from his playing days at LSU, helped drew an overflow crowd of 18,582 (the largest in three seasons), marking only the third sellout of the season for New Orleans. ... With the playoffs long since out of reach, Scott has begun switching his starting lineup around. Brown, a 12-year veteran who started New Orleans' first 70 games, was a reserve for a second straight game and played 24 minutes. ... Eddie Jones returned from a right ankle sprain that forced him to miss the Heat's previous game. He played 25 minutes and did not score, but had four steals to become Miami's all-time steals leader with 462. He passed Bimbo Coles (458).
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||44-80 (.550)||36-72 (.500)|
|3PM-3PA||6-14 (.429)||4-11 (.364)|
|FTM-FTA||17-26 (.654)||23-28 (.821)|
|Fast Break Points||12||15|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||25 (0/0)||20 (0/0)|