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NBA O'Neal, Heat too much for Cavs



Published: Fri, February 4, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



LeBron James scored 31 points and had10 assists, but Cleveland fell 100-88.

MIAMI (AP) -- Shaquille O'Neal is an All-Star for the 12th time, and he played like one down the stretch.

O'Neal scored eight of his 26 points in the final eight minutes, helping the Miami Heat hold off the Cleveland Cavaliers 100-88 on Thursday night.

Miami led by as many as 17 in the third, then let LeBron James and the Cavaliers close to 77-76 with 8:31 remaining. But O'Neal sparked a game-saving 9-0 run with a dunk, and the Heat held on to send Cleveland to its fourth loss in five road games.

"When we have lapses like that in the game, we just have to dig deep down and pick it up," said O'Neal, who added 12 rebounds. "And that's what we did."

Eddie Jones had 22 points, including a pair of clutch 3-pointers in the final quarter, and Dwyane Wade scored 20 points for the Eastern Conference-leading Heat.

James, who, at 20, is the second-youngest player to be named a starter in All-Star history, finished with 31 points and 10 assists for Cleveland. Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 23 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who had won eight straight games that followed a loss.

Losses and wins

Cleveland had alternated losses and wins in its last 11 games coming in, and is now 11/2 games behind Detroit in the Central Division. The Cavaliers missed 13 of their final 18 shots from the field.

"Right now, we're not playing the level of basketball we want to play," James said. "Down the stretch, we were just not making enough shots."

Miami trailed for most of the first half, then outscored Cleveland 18-6 to end the second quarter -- and went on to score the first 10 points of the third, building a 60-43 lead.

Keyon Dooling, who played the entire second quarter while Miami's starting guards -- Wade and Damon Jones -- sat on the bench, had the bulk of his 13 points during that burst for Miami, which held a 23-9 edge in scoring by backups.

"Keyon was great, particularly in the second quarter," Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Then we let them back into the game, but we finished extremely strong."

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 that he called "one of my best."

"Damon is my guy. I apologized for it," James said. "I just tried to elevate, get up and made sure I got the basket."

Said Cleveland coach Paul Silas: "Every night, he's going to show you something to wow you."

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. Over the next 21/2 minutes, the Heat restored their 10-point lead and held on from there.

"We fought back, but we just didn't have enough to sustain it," Silas said.

Drew Gooden had his sixth straight double-double, 10 points and 12 rebounds, for the Cavaliers, who also got 13 points from McInnis.

Miami's 50-43 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.

"Shaq is the best big man in the league," Ilgauskas said. "You waste so much energy playing against him on defense that you don't have much left on the offensive end."




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