8:00 PM ET, March 17, 2005
AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, FL
MIAMI (AP) -- Shaquille O'Neal wants nothing to do with Kobe Bryant. And Bryant soon may not want anything to do with Shaq's understudy in Miami.
Dwyane Wade -- pumped up by a comment Bryant made as the first half expired -- scored eight of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, and O'Neal had a 25-point, 12-rebound game that helped lift the Miami Heat to a 102-89 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.
It was the 11th straight win and a single-season record 14th straight at home for Miami (51-16), which moved nine games ahead of Detroit in the Eastern Conference standings and within percentage points of San Antonio (49-15) for the league's best record.
"We just look at this game as another game," said O'Neal, who enjoyed a season sweep at his former teammate's expense. "We wanted to stay focused and our guys did a beautiful job of not letting anything enter into the locker room that would break our focus."
Bryant, according to Wade, told Miami's second-year guard "Stop crying" as the teams were preparing to leave the court following a first half in which Wade was often agitated over non-calls.
"I don't want to say what I said," Wade said. "I told him that I wasn't talking to him, for one. And for two, I pretty much told him a lot of stuff. I don't want to get into it."
His play did the talking. Wade added eight rebounds and five assists, then he pumped his fist in exultation as the final seconds wore down.
Bryant had 21 points in the first half but missed his first nine shots after halftime and finished with 26 points on 8-for-23 shooting. Chucky Atkins had 23 for the Lakers, who dropped their third straight and fell 1½ games behind Denver for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"I think we're at our best when the odds are against us," Bryant said.
Keyon Dooling scored eight of his season-high 17 points in the fourth quarter for Miami, which outscored the Lakers 33-22 in the last 12 minutes -- even though the Lakers connected on six 3-pointers in the final 10:03.
"Keyon was obviously fabulous, and Dwyane and Shaq were very, very good again," Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said.
It was the Lakers' first visit to Miami since last summer's trade sending O'Neal to the Heat for Caron Butler, Lamar Odom and Brian Grant -- all key players in last season's run to the East semifinals. There was plenty of hype, although it paled to the mania surrounding the Heat's 104-102 Christmas win in Los Angeles.
And the crowd's reaction, both to Bryant and the former Heat trio, went as expected.
There was a quick, loud chorus of booing when Bryant was introduced as a starter, and more catcalls and chants followed virtually every time he touched the basketball. He and O'Neal barely acknowledged each other before tip-off but extended hands halfheartedly in the center circle.
"I didn't say anything," O'Neal said. "Got nothing to say. I'm a married man; I don't need a relationship with another man."
Nothing but long cheers rained down from the sellout crowd when Odom and Butler were announced. And when Grant checked into the game midway through the quarter, Eddie Jones was the first player from either side to greet him, giving a quick hug.
There were plenty more embraces at the final buzzer, including one where Bryant wrapped his arms around Wade. But by then, only one team was smiling.
"It's not about individual achievements, individual accomplishments," Bryant said. "It's about us believing in each other, trying to do something everybody says we can't do."
Bryant started quickly, scoring seven of the Lakers' points in a 9-2 game-opening run. Yet the Lakers missed 12 of their final 15 shots of the quarter, and Dooling's 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left gave Miami a 25-20 lead after the opening period.
That shot sparked an 11-2 run by Miami, with Dooling hitting two more jumpers in the first 2:48 of the second quarter to help Miami to a 33-22 lead.
Over the first 18½ minutes, Los Angeles was getting scoring from just two players -- Bryant and Odom. They hit nine of their first 14 shots, while their teammates were a combined 1-for-18.
But the Lakers still stayed close, with Atkins scoring eight points in a three-minute span late in the half to help draw his team to 47-45 at the break. And it stayed a two-point margin, with Miami up 69-67 entering the fourth -- even though Bryant only managed a pair of free throws in the third quarter.
"We played well for 36 minutes tonight," Lakers coach Frank Hamblen said. "Unfortunately, the game is 48."
Odom was a little disoriented coming out of the visitors' locker room before a pregame shootaround. "Which way's the court from here?" he asked. ... O'Neal, a self-described leprechaun, vowed to pinch anyone not wearing green on St. Patrick's Day, but Wade defied his center's edict. "You won't catch me wearing no green," he said. ... Many celebrities were in attendance, including hip-hop mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Florida Marlins outfielder Miguel Cabrera and actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson -- a former University of Miami football player.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||33-87 (.379)||38-80 (.475)|
|3PM-3PA||10-24 (.417)||5-19 (.263)|
|FTM-FTA||13-17 (.765)||21-29 (.724)|
|Fast Break Points||13||15|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||26 (0/0)||16 (1/0)|