Apparently there's a long way from first to last in the NBA's
In the Heat's first road victory without O'Neal, Jason Williams
scored 21 points to help Miami beat Atlanta 96-74.
O'Neal, still recovering from a sprained ankle he suffered on
Nov. 3, managed a smile as the Philips Arena video board polled
fans on what ranks as his worst movie. He laughed when his movie
"Kazaam" was the gag gift for a fan during a timeout.
Based on Wednesday night's lopsided score, O'Neal may have more
reason to smile if he is healthy when the Hawks visit Miami on Dec.
The win was especially important for the division-leading Heat,
who opened a five-game road trip and play nine of their next 11
games away. O'Neal is not expected to return before the end of the
"One of the things that we were concerned about was playing
well on the road, and we have not proven that as a team yet," said
Miami center Alonzo Mourning after scoring 14 points with 12
"It's going to take a collective effort, establishing ourselves
a little bit better than we have on the road. Because we expect to
be there in June. We've got to focus and come together on the road
in other people's arenas."
The Heat improved to 8-5 overall -- but only 1-4 on the road --
since losing O'Neal.
"There were a lot of positives," said Miami coach Stan Van
Gundy. "But also, a word of caution: We have to have a more even
performance and get our energy at a higher level more consistently
if were going to go out on the road and play the teams that were
going to play now."
The Hawks went up 4-2, but Miami took the lead in the opening
minutes and never trailed again.
"Even without the big man in the middle, they're still a good
basketball team," said Hawks guard Joe Johnson, who had 13 points
and six assists.
The Hawks, in last place in the Southeast, set a new scoring low
for the season.
Wade had 20 points -- all in the second and third periods. Gary
Payton added 13 points off the bench for Miami.
A basket with 9:45 left by Zaza Pachulia, who had 17 points and
11 rebounds, pulled the Hawks to within seven points at 72-65.
Following a Miami timeout, Shandon Anderson scored on a drive down
the baseline, and the Heat kept the lead in double figures for the
rest of the game.
"We were still in it until the last seven minutes," Pachulia
said. "Then it went from seven to 20 and a blowout."
"It's tough," Johnson said. "As of right now, we can go no
way but up. I don't think it can get any worse than this."
Even Spirit, the team's mascot hawk, refused to make his normal
pregame flight from the upper luxury box level to the court.
The Hawks in uniform didn't follow the plan much better.
"It should not have been that type of game," said Josh
"We didn't play up to our capabilities tonight. That was
evident. We were very sluggish. ... We didn't make a run."
After scoring only 34 second-half points in Tuesday night's loss
at Houston, the Hawks managed only 12 first-quarter points.
Miami led 43-34 at halftime despite only six first-half points
Josh Smith, who had 10 points, gave Atlanta fans a highlight
with a left-handed jam over Mourning midway through the second
Hawks point guard Tyronn Lue was held out for the second
straight game following oral surgery Monday. Royal Ivey started his
first game of the season and scored eight points.
The Hawks have lost three straight since their only two wins of
Suspended Philadelphia Eagles receiver Terrell Owens, a
part-time Atlanta resident, attended the game. As was the case at
other recent appearances at Hawks game, Owens drew a loud mixture
of boos and cheers when he was shown on the video board. ... NL MVP
runner-up Andruw Jones and Atlanta Braves teammate Rafael Furcal, a
free agent, had courtside seats near Hawks vice president Dominique
Wilkins. ...The Hawks used their eighth different starting lineup
in 14 games.