National Basketball Association News
Shaq returns, but Heat fall to Pacers in OT
Jan 25, 2007, 3:25 GMT
Indianapolis, IN - Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade were together on the court for the first time in over two months, and Miami built a 20-point lead in the third quarter, but wilted and fell, 96-94, in overtime to the Indiana Pacers.
Despite building a sizeable cushion, the Heat couldn't ride the return of their dynamic duo to a win, as Jason Kapono's potential tying three-pointer rattled in and out of the basket in the final second of OT.
Troy Murphy had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Pacers, who won their second straight after a four-game skid. Danny Granger added 16 points, 14 of them after the third quarter.
O'Neal, who spent the previous 35 games on the inactive list while undergoing rehabilitation from surgery to repair cartilage damage in his left knee, was limited in playing time and production, ending with five points and five rebounds in 14 minutes. He sat during the entire overtime in his first contest since November 12 versus Houston.
'It's going to be a process for us,' Heat coach Ron Rothstein said. 'It's going to take him time to get his legs back. You could see he was rusty. It's just going to take a lot of practice.'
Wade, who missed Monday's 101-83 home win over the New York Knicks due to a sprained left ankle, led the way with 32 points and eight assists, but the defending NBA champions lost for the third time in four contests.
Murphy's jumper extended the Pacers to a 96-92 lead with 42.9 seconds left in OT, but Kapono hit a bank shot eight seconds later. Wade then blocked a shot by Marquis Daniels, but the Heat couldn't take advantage as Kapono's three barely missed.
Jamaal Tinsley had 14 points and Jermaine O'Neal 10 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots for the Pacers.
'That was a great win for us, obviously for the way we came back,' Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. 'Our second group did a great job bringing us back in the fourth. We dodged a couple of bullets at the end with Wade's shot and Kapono's shot. But when guys played as hard as they did in the second half, you get some breaks.'
Kapono finished with 18 points, while Udonis Haslem contributed 14 points and 15 boards for the Heat.
Although he didn't start for just the ninth time in his career, Shaquille O'Neal did enter the game with 4:49 remaining in the opening quarter and the Heat behind, 17-16. Less than a minute later he grabbed his first rebound, but had a shot blocked at the other end by Jermaine O'Neal after trying to power to the bucket.
In fact, Shaq's first basket didn't come until there was 4:42 left in the third quarter, a six-foot jumper, that extended Miami's lead to 62-43.
The Heat's largest advantage came at 65-45, on one Wade free throw with 3:35 left in the period. However, Indiana responded with a 10-2 run and got within 70-57 going into the fourth.
'It got away quick,' Wade said of the lead. 'I don't know what happened. They were ready to give up, but they put a team in there who didn't want to get embarrassed. They started to make some stops and make some shots, next thing you know it's a ball game.'
The Pacers had a 19-4 surge to go ahead 76-74 midway through the fourth. Daniels' jumper gave his team the lead and Jeff Foster's free throw capped the push. Granger was the catalyst for the run with a pair of three-pointers and a dunk.
Darrell Armstrong's layup moved the Pacers to an 87-81 lead with 1:32 left, but the Heat rallied as Kapono hit a three. Then, after a 24-second violation by the Pacers, Wade tied the game with another shot from beyond the arc.
Gary Payton came up with a steal in the final seconds for Miami, but after a timeout, Wade missed a potential winning shot at the regulation buzzer.
Miami scored the final five points of the opening quarter for a 26-21 lead. Shaq's only point of the period came on a free throw in the final minute.
Although the Pacers couldn't go ahead in the second, they did get within one twice, but trailed 41-34 at the break.
Miami started to pull away for a seemingly comfortable victory by netting the first 11 points of the third. Kapono's three-pointer capped the spurt for a 52-34 margin with 9:46 remaining in the quarter.
'We were able to get some stops, knock down open shots and we won the game,' Murphy said. 'Darrell Armstrong kept yelling at us when we were down 15 to keep our heads in the game. He said we were going to win this game. We fought back and won.'
Miami has lost 12 of 14 at Indiana.
Alonzo Mourning had 14 points for Miami, while Daniels had 11 and Armstrong ended with 9 for the Pacers.
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