Shaq takes over in a victory over the Wizards

Published: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

WASHINGTON — With less than a week to go before his 35th birthday, Shaquille O'Neal took command of the game and could not be stopped. Woe unto the Washington Wizards, who tried to stop the big man one-on-one.

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Miami center Shaquille O'Neal dunks over Washington's Gilbert Areans, center, and Etan Thomas during the second quarter Wednesday in Washington.

The Associated Press

Just like old times, O'Neal assumed control when it mattered most Wednesday night. He scored all 12 of his team's points over a 13-minute span late in the third quarter and most of the fourth, finishing with a season-high 23 points to lead the Miami Heat to a 92-83 victory.

"I don't have the same 1,000-percent explosiveness," said O'Neal, who missed 39 games early in the season with a knee injury. "But it's coming back."

In a game without Dwyane Wade, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison — and with Gilbert Arenas having another poor shooting night — O'Neal became the star attraction with a variety of moves against helpless Wizards center Brendan Haywood. O'Neal backed in for a basket. He tossed in an underhand reverse layup with his left hand. He converted a soft hook, then a half-hook. He scored with a spin move.

"A lot of people don't think he can play anymore," Miami coach Pat Riley said. "That's why they guard him one-on-one. They're making a big mistake if he keeps getting his rhythm down."

Haywood would have liked some help, but the Wizards didn't want to risk leaving Jason Williams (23 points) or Udonis Haslem (12 points and 16 rebounds) open.

"If somebody thinks he's too old or too whatever, at the end of the day the man's still over 300 pounds," Haywood said. "When somebody weighs that much more than you, there's nothing you can really do if there's no double-team coming. It's like playing against your big brother. You can try as hard as you want to, but he's older and bigger than you and there's nothing you can do."

O'Neal, forced to carrying more of the load while Wade is out with a shoulder injury, finished 11-for-17 from the field and also had 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocks. He would have scored more had he not missed six of seven free throws.

"I'm known as 'The Big Sewer,"' O'Neal said, "because I've got a lot of you-know-what in my game."

When Eddie Jones hit a 3-pointer with 1:12 to play, it broke the all-Shaq Miami parade and gave the Heat a nine-point lead, essentially sealing the game. Meanwhile, the Wizards were absolutely cold, shooting 7-for-26 in the fourth quarter of their fourth straight loss.

The Heat improved to 2-2 since Wade's dislocated his left shoulder. He is scheduled to get a second opinion Thursday to determine whether he should have season-ending surgery.

Arenas, basically a one-man band for the third straight game because of injuries to Butler (back) and Jamison (knee), scored 15 points on 3-for-18 shooting. He is 14-for-61 over his last three games. He missed all eight of his 3-point attempts and has made only 19 of his last 101 3-pointers, a skid that started the day after his 25th birthday.

"He's carrying the whole franchise on his shoulder right now," Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. "You can't ask anything more of him."

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