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Thursday, May 12, 2005
Shaq: 'I've been playing like Erick Dampier'

ESPN.com news services

WASHINGTON -- Shaquille O'Neal wasn't sure when he'd be back in the Miami Heat lineup after a bruised right thigh kept him out of a playoff game for the first time in his career.

Shaquille O'Neal
Center
Miami Heat
Profile
2004-2005 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
73 22.9 10.4 2.7 .601 .461

O'Neal was scratched about 20 minutes before the tip-off of Thursday night's Game 3 between the Heat and the Washington Wizards. He watched Miami win 102-95 to take a 3-0 lead in the second-round series.

Through six postseason games, O'Neal has averaged 18 points, a career playoff low, and 8.2 rebounds.

"I know one day, I'm going to wake up and it's not going to be there," O'Neal said, referring to the soreness in his leg. "When that day comes, whoever we're playing, they're going to be in trouble ... I've been playing like Erick Dampier."

Dampier is the Dallas Mavericks center called out publicly by teammate Dirk Nowitzki after being outscored 40-0 by the Suns' Amare Stoudemire in Game 1 of their second-round series.

Ending nearly a week's boycott of speaking with reporters, O'Neal said he wanted to play Thursday, but, "I was ordered by the powers that be to take it easy."

"I looked bad the other night in the fourth quarter, and they didn't want it to get any worse," he added. "They have confidence in the team and so do I. The team just played fabulous today. That's a good sign."

The injury ended a streak of 164 consecutive playoff games for O'Neal, who had never missed a postseason game -- or even a start -- in 13 seasons with Orlando, the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami.

He missed the last two games of the regular season with the same injury. His movement was limited in the first-round series against New Jersey and in the first two games against the Wizards.

"It's a medical decision, period," coach Stan Van Gundy said before the game. "It's never a good thing if you have to have one of your best players out. That's never a positive."

O'Neal scored 19 points in 26 minutes before fouling out in Game 1 on Sunday and was obviously laboring when he scored 16 points in 37 minutes in Game 2 on Tuesday.

Will he play in Game 4 on Saturday in Washington?

"I'm going to do my treatment tomorrow and then I'll let the powers look at it and they'll determine. I really didn't want to sit out. I told my guys that I'm going to be there -- one leg, half a leg, half a knee, I'm going to be there with them," O'Neal said. "But the powers grabbed me on the shoulder tonight and told me you don't look good. You look good in the suit, but you don't look good. We want you to take it easy."

A Heat official told ESPN's Michelle Tafoya the team may not play O'Neal to give him more time to heal.

While he sat on the sideline in a gold ensemble, Alonzo Mourning filled in quite capably, with 14 points and 13 rebounds against a depleted Wizards frontcourt.

Said Mourning: "I told him, 'If you're out, I'm going to do what I can to fill the void.' "

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.