EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Shaquille O'Neal caught the ball
deep in the low post, used his oversized posterior to bump Alonzo
Mourning out of the way, then dropped in a layup with no one else
Miami's new center had his way against a familiar face from the
Heat's recent past, shooting 7-for-9 from the field and scoring 16
points in just 21 minutes of a 100-77 victory Wednesday night over
the New Jersey Nets.
It was anything but a dominant debut in black for O'Neal, who
was acquired over the summer from the Los Angeles Lakers for three
starters and a first-round draft pick.
But he certainly had his moments despite playing on a sore left
hamstring, the best of them coming in the first four minutes of the
fourth quarter against the player drafted one spot behind him in
"I was ordered to be 100 percent when I came back, but I
haven't been 100 percent in about 10 years," O'Neal said.
On his next trip downcourt after shaking Mourning with his butt
bump, O'Neal freed himself with a shove to the back that the
referees didn't see before knocking down a short jump hook.
Moments later, O'Neal got the ball in the low left block and hit
a 10-foot baseline turnaround over Mourning for an 83-60 lead.
"It was one-on-one coverage, and I don't know anybody in this
league that can guard him one-on-one," Mourning said. "I don't
care if he has a pulled hamstring or he is slow -- the man is big.
He is a massive individual. If you don't have the same weight and
size to match that and you're playing him one-on-one and get behind
him, he is going to back you down, drop step and there's not too
much you can do about it."
Both players left for good moments later, O'Neal's night a
success because of the victory; Mourning's an accomplishment simply
because the former Miami center was able to play less than a year
after undergoing a kidney transplant.
Mourning finished with seven points, five rebounds and four
fouls in 14 minutes for a gutted Nets team that's a shadow of the
squad that reached the NBA Finals two of the past three years.
Former starters Kenyon Martin and Kerry Kittles were traded for
draft picks over the summer, and Jason Kidd is beginning the season
on the injured list after undergoing knee surgery.
Richard Jefferson had 19 points to lead New Jersey, but he was
the Nets' only starter to reach double figures.
"If we lose, it's because of the players out there," Jefferson
said, "not because of ghosts of Christmas past."
Miami, which also changed a majority of its starting lineup, had
six players in double figures.
"I haven't had that many open shots since I played Pee-Wee ball
with my brother when I was 5," Damon Jones said.
O'Neal only touched the ball once on Miami's first three
possessions, all of which ended with scores for a 7-0 lead. The
Heat got their edge up to 16 early in the second quarter before New
Jersey -- forcing O'Neal as far from the basket as possible on
defense and shooting 12-for-19 on offense -- pulled to 46-41 at
O'Neal had only six points and three rebounds in the first half,
missing his first shot, making his next three and missing his last.
In the third quarter, O'Neal beat Mourning downcourt after
winning a jump ball against him and scored easily over Eric
Williams for a 50-43 lead before picking up his fourth foul seconds
later. Miami didn't miss him, going on a 24-13 run over the
remainder of the quarter for a 74-56 lead entering the fourth
"It went better than I thought it would go," Heat coach Stan
Van Gundy said, "but I'm not going to go crazy on the superlatives
after one game."
The game drew a crowd of 17,260, about 3,500 short of
capacity. ... O'Neal missed three free throws in a single trip to
the line during the first half, getting an extra attempt because of
a lane violation. He finished 2-for-7 at the line. ... Among the
new starters for the Nets are Jacque Vaughn, who had four points
and three assists in 22 minutes, and Eric Williams, who missed all
six of his shot attempts and was scoreless with four fouls in 25
minutes. ... New Jersey suffered its most lopsided opening night
home loss since joining the NBA. ... NBA commissioner David Stern
and Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong gave videotaped
messages of encouragement to Mourning for his comeback from a
kidney transplant. He is the second NBA player to play with a
transplanted kidney, joining former San Antonio Spurs forward Sean