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
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
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
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,"
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.
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