Two nifty assists by O'Neal sparked a 13-point run late in the
fourth quarter by the Heat, who won their eighth game in a row,
beating the Orlando Magic 117-107 Sunday night.
"I found my shooters a couple of times," O'Neal said. "They
know if they get open, I'm going to hit them for the
The Heat trailed much of the game and were down 103-102 with
five minutes left before O'Neal helped them surge ahead.
On consecutive possessions, O'Neal hit a dunk, fed Eddie Jones
for a 3-pointer that put Miami ahead to stay, then passed to
Christian Laettner for a layup to make it 107-103. O'Neal's
three-point play a minute later made it 110-103.
"At the end we just ran everything through Shaq," coach Stan
Van Gundy said. "As the game goes on, the quick guys get tired and
a little slower, but the big guys don't shrink."
O'Neal finished with 27 points and five assists.
"When you've got Shaq on the team, you keep feeding him,"
guard Keyon Dooling said. "That's a no-brainer."
Led by their new center, the Heat are on their longest winning
streak since March 1998. The past four victories have come against
teams above .500.
"We're getting better and putting together wins," O'Neal said.
"We're not blowing people out all the time, but we'll get to
Playing their intrastate rivals for the first time this season,
the Magic were eager to challenge Miami's supremacy atop the
Southeast Division. Instead Orlando lost for the fourth time in
five games and fell four games behind the Heat.
Steve Francis led Orlando with 31 points, many on acrobatic,
slashing shots. He even drew a foul on a twisting attempt with his
back to the basket.
But the Magic's transition game fizzled at the end, and they
scored just two baskets in the final 5:16.
"That's one of the parts of the game where we have yet to
grow," coach Johnny Davis said. "Down the stretch, the maturity
and experience of a team show."
Cuttino Mobley had 22 points, and Grant Hill 20 for the Magic,
who lost despite shooting 51 percent. Miami shot 52 percent and
trailed only 36-34 on the boards against the Magic, who lead the
NBA in rebounds per game.
"The most gratifying thing is Orlando came in and played well,
and we won," Van Gundy said.
Jones went 8-for-10 and scored 25 points. Dwyane Wade added 22
despite missing 14 of 20 shots.
The Magic sank their first five 3-point attempts and shot 55
percent in the first half to lead 63-54. Jones' three-point play
with 2.2 seconds left in the third quarter tied it at 87-all, and
the Heat took the lead on a free throw to start the fourth quarter.
Francis was called for a technical for taunting the Heat bench
at the end of the third period, and Laettner sank the free throw.
He then converted a three-point play on the Heat's next possession
to put them up 90-86.
There were four more lead changes to come -- and 15 in all.
"We should have won this game," Hill said. "We have to figure
out a way to steal some games, just like teams have been doing to
The Heat swept their four-game series against Orlando last
season. ... Miami improved to 15-2 against Eastern Conference
teams. They're 14-0 when scoring at least 100 points.