Heat off to best start in franchise history

CLEVELAND (AP) -- The big birthday boy barely broke a sweat.

Shaquille O'Neal spent much of his 33rd birthday in foul trouble
but Eddie Jones scored 19 points, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem
added 18 apiece and the Heat won their fifth straight, 102-82 over
the collapsing Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night.

"This team doesn't have to depend on just one or two guys,"
said Wade, who added 10 rebounds. "It's a unit."

O'Neal played just 19 minutes in the first three quarters, but
the Heat actually played better without their All-Star center.
While O'Neal sat out with four fouls, Miami outscored Cleveland
18-8 over the final 6:23 of the third to take control.

O'Neal finished with 13 points, five rebounds and six assists in
27 minutes of his third game back after missing four games with a
sprained left knee.

After singing in the showers along with a few teammates, O'Neal
left without talking to reporters. However, he did stop to sign
autographs and pose for pictures outside Miami's locker room.

Miami, off to its best start in franchise history, has won 12 of

"Right now, we're playing good and we have a lot of
confidence," Wade said. "When we get a lead now, we're keeping
the lead. Guys are stepping up."

LeBron James scored 23 points for the Cavaliers, who have lost
six straight, seven of eight and look nothing like the team that
led the Central Division for much of the first half of the season.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 22 points and Drew Gooden 11 points and
13 rebounds for Cleveland, which got outrebounded 55-40.

"We could easily go down the toilet and not make the
playoffs," James said. "It's not happy around here and I don't
like being a part of this losing."

Down by 11 at the half, the Cavaliers appeared to catch a big
break when O'Neal picked up his fourth foul midway through the
third period and had to take a seat. The Heat, though, moved more
fluidly on the offensive end without the middle plugged up and
ripped off a 14-2 spurt to take a 77-56 lead.

The Cavaliers, meanwhile, settled for too many jump shots and
made only 6 of 23 attempts in the third.

Cavaliers coach Paul Silas is frustrated with how his team has
allowed a once promising season to erode. Suddenly, making the
playoffs isn't a certainty.

"I just don't see the fire," Silas said. "All the things that
we had at one time, we've lost it. We didn't fight."

Early in the fourth, Eddie Jones, Keyon Dooling and Damon Jones
hit 3-pointers as Miami built its lead to 22 and Cleveland fans
began to drown out the incessant music in the arena with boos.

Midway through the quarter, Silas decided he had seen enough and
benched his starters with the Heat up 94-74.

O'Neal played just three minutes in the first quarter when he
picked up his second personal and had to sit. But even with Miami's
big man out, the Cavaliers couldn't take advantage and only led
25-24 after one.

O'Neal didn't score his first points until early in the second
quarter -- a Shaq-like dunk that put him in 17th place on the NBA's
scoring list, two points ahead of Adrian Dantley (23,177).

However, O'Neal's frustration surfaced a few minutes later when
he yelled, "Let's clean this (stuff) up," at referee Sean Corbin
and got slapped with a technical. But the big fella settled down,
scoring 11 points in the period as the Heat outscored the Cavaliers
31-19 to take a 55-44 halftime lead.

Game notes
The Cavs are 0-3 since Dan Gilbert took over as owner. ...
Miami's 55 rebounds were a season high. ... Next up on the career
points list for O'Neal is Robert Parrish, who finished with 23,334
points. ... Guard Rod Strickland, waived last week by Houston, sat
in a courtside seat near Cleveland's bench. ... Cavs rookie F
Anderson Varejao missed his third straight game after reinjuring
his left ankle. He missed 14 consecutive games earlier this season.
Silas said Varejao has been fitted with a special cast, but that
he's running better. ... Even at 6-8 and a generous 300 pounds,
Cleveland's Robert Traylor said he gets pushed around by O'Neal.
"He makes you feel like a little kid," Traylor said. "All you
can do is hope he misses. It's not fun." ... Rams All-Pro tackle
Orlando Pace and Browns TE Kellen Winslow Jr. attended the game.
... O'Neal has blocked a shot in 19 straight games.


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