Shaq leads Heat past Cavaliers 100-88
Shaquille O'Neal had 26 points and 12 rebounds, and the Miami Heat overcame 31 points and 10 assists from All-Star LeBron James to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 100-88 on Thursday night.
O'Neal, named an All-Star for the 12th time earlier in the day, scored eight points in the fourth quarter to help the Eastern Conference-leading Heat send Cleveland to its fourth loss in five road games.
James, who, at 20, is the second-youngest player to be named a starter in All-Star history, made 11 of 23 shots for Cleveland, which has lost two straight for the first time since Dec. 18. The Cavaliers had won eight in a row following a loss.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 23 points and Drew Gooden had 10 points and 12 rebounds — his sixth straight double-double — for the Cavaliers, who fell 1 1/2 games behind idle Detroit in the Central Division.
Miami used a 28-6 run over an 11-minute stretch midway through the game to build a 17-point lead. The Cavaliers managed to close within one, but never reclaimed the lead. Keyon Dooling had the bulk of his 13 points off the bench during that burst for Miami, which held a 23-9 edge in scoring by the backups.
The Heat gave up the first seven points and trailed for much of the first half — but used an 18-6 run over the final 8:28 of the second quarter to grab a 50-43 halftime lead.
O'Neal had eight points and Dooling — playing while starting guards Wade and Damon Jones were benched for the period — scored six in the run, during which the Heat held Cleveland to just 2-of-11 shooting from the floor. And with Wade back in the lineup, Miami scored the first 10 points of the third to build a 17-point edge.
Cleveland chipped away, and James made a spectacular play to draw the Cavaliers to 73-65 with 2:08 left in the third. Defending on the wing, he leaped to snare Damon Jones' pass and tossed the ball upcourt to Jeff McInnis — who eventually fed it back to James for a one-handed slam.
James opened the fourth with a three-point play and, after Gooden's dunk, added a pair of free throws with 8:31 left to cut Miami's lead to 77-76 — capping a 7-0 Cavaliers run to open the final quarter.
Cleveland got no closer, however. The Heat answered immediately with nine straight points over the next 2:24, rebuilding a 10-point lead on a layup by O'Neal with 6:07 remaining and hanging on from there.
Miami's halftime lead could have been significantly larger, but in what's becoming a theme for the Heat, free throw shooting was a liability. Miami — the NBA's second-worst foul shooting team — missed nine of 19 from the line in the half, but was a perfect 10-for-10 in the second half.
Ilgauskas hit his first five shots and had 11 points in the opening 4:44, but foul trouble limited him to three points the rest of the half. He picked up his third with 6:09 left before halftime.