MIAMI (AP) -- Shaquille O'Neal expected the Miami Heat to endure
some growing pains over the early portion of the season, as new
teammates got used to each other's nuances.
The Heat's trip along the learning curve might be over.
Dwyane Wade scored 25 points and O'Neal turned in a 20-point,
11-rebound, seven-assist effort as Miami won its seventh straight
game, 107-100 Friday night over the Denver Nuggets -- who lost
forward Carmelo Anthony to a sprained ankle, yet still nearly
rallied from a 15-point hole in the final five minutes.
O'Neal's assist total was a season-high, and two off his
career-best. He continually drew double-teams, and simply waited
for an uncovered teammate to head toward the basket for either a
layup or dunk.
"The true definition of a great player is how you make the
other guys around you," O'Neal said. "When there's two guys on
me, other guys are closer to the basket for high-percentage shots
and I'm going to hit them every time. That's just playing good team
basketball -- something a lot of people in this league don't do.
"I don't have to say names."
The presumed jab at former teammate Kobe Bryant indicates that
O'Neal is eager for his Christmas Day return to Los Angeles and the
anticipated matchup against the Lakers, but Miami's winning streak
also shows that the Heat aren't looking ahead to any opponent.
The current run matches the franchise's best since a 10-game
streak in the 1997-98 season.
"We were the last team to beat them, so I know they were highly
motivated," Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "We expected that.
When you play a really good team in a really tough environment and
you dig yourself a hole, that is tough to overcome."
Anthony finished with 14 points in 29 minutes, leaving late in
the third quarter after missing a layup and landing on O'Neal's
foot. He rolled his left ankle and remained down on the court for
about two minutes before being helped to the locker room for X-rays
-- which revealed no break.
Anthony, who was on crutches after the game, said he doesn't
expect to play Saturday in Orlando when Denver ends its seven-game
road trip -- matching the longest in franchise history.
"I was kind of in shock at first. I was just getting over
spraining the other ankle," Anthony said. "It's a little sore and
tender right now. The doctor told me it will be day-to-day. ...
It's not as bad as it might seem."
Andre Miller scored 24 points for Denver and Kenyon Martin had
21 points and 11 rebounds for the Nuggets, who fell to 3-3 on their
"We made the right plays and we got the right shots," Heat
coach Stan Van Gundy said. "And that's all you can do."
O'Neal's quick pass set up Wade for a dunk that put Miami up
100-85 with 4:43 remaining, but the Nuggets outscored the Heat 15-5
over the next four minutes. Earl Boykins' 3-pointer with 32 seconds
left drew Denver within 105-100, but the Nuggets missed their final
three shots and got no closer.
"We couldn't get it done at the end, but we battled hard and
that's been our M.O. all year," Martin said. "We're a team that
Miami outrebounded Denver 23-9 in the first two quarters, tying
the club record for fewest boards allowed in a half. The Heat --
outrebounded by a season-worst 16 in the opening half Wednesday at
Washington -- gave up just one offensive board in the first 25:09
against the Nuggets.
Denver fell to 10-2 when Martin has a double-double. ...
Miami has allowed nine rebounds in a half on two other occasions,
never before in a first half. It let Washington grab 32 first-half
boards on Wednesday. ... Nuggets F Nene (right hip contusion)
returned to action; he'd managed a total of three minutes in
Denver's last three games, and had sat out all of the last two. He
had five points in 16 minutes ... Donald Trump and fiancee Melania
Knauss had center-court seats, and kissed when their image appeared
on the JumboTron during a second-quarter timeout.