for this game

O'Neal powers undermanned Heat over injury-riddled Wizards

Mar 1, 2007 - 5:09 AM WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- Shaquille O'Neal picked up the slack in the fourth quarter for the undermanned Miami Heat.

In one of his finest performances of the season, O'Neal scored 12 of his season-high 23 points in the final period and Jason Williams added 23 points as the Heat dug in defensively down the stretch en route to a 92-83 victory over the Washington Wizards.

Udonis Haslem collected 12 points and 15 rebounds for Miami, which improved to just 3-8 with superstar Dwyane Wade sidelined. The reigning NBA Finals MVP decided that he will wait until the end of the week to decide whether to undergo season-ending surgery or rehabilitate his injured shoulder.

"We don't really think anything of it (being written off without Wade)," Williams said. "We've still got to go out and play the games. This is the NBA, anything can happen."

Missing 38 games after knee surgery earlier this season, O'Neal had been sluggish in his return. However, with Wade sidelined, Miami's playoff hopes rest on the 7-1 center's wide shoulders and he responded.

"Right now our plan is just to slow it down a little bit and get me a couple more touches," O'Neal said. "Basically, it's simple. I look for the guys and I've got to hit the high-percentage shots or just go to work. They really didn't double that much, and I'm trying to mix it up a little bit - go to work at times and at times kick it out to my shooters."

On Wednesday, he played with energy, shooting 11-of-17 from the field and grabbing 10 rebounds. Showing his complete repertoire in the fourth quarter, O'Neal torched Wizards center Brendan Haywood with a combination of jump hooks and ferocious dunks.

"Whether someone thinks (O'Neal) is too old or too whatever, at the end of the day the man is still 300 pounds and outweighs every center in the league besides Eddy Curry by at least 80 to 100 pounds," Haywood said. "When someone weighs that much more than you, then there is nothing you can really do without the double-team coming. It's like playing against your older brother. You can try as hard as you want, but he is older and bigger than you."

After a stellar finish, O'Neal gave himself a new nickname in an ode to his assortment of moves down the stretch.

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

Williams shot 7-of-14 from the field, including 5-of-10 on 3-pointers for the Heat, who shot 42 percent (33-of-79).

"Guys have got to double-team Shaq and they're not going to leave (sharpshooting swingman Jason) Kapono," Williams said. "So, usually the double-teams are going to come off me, so I'm just going to take the shots when they're there."

All-Star Gilbert Arenas struggled all night, scoring 15 points on 3-of-18 shooting - missing all eight of his shots from the arc - for Washington, which lost its third straight game.

The Wizards continued to play without All-Star Caron Butler and star forward Antawn Jamison, who both may return within the next two contests.

"I told the team after the game, if the cavalry comes around the corner on Friday or Sunday, it is not guaranteed that we are going to get a win," Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. "Quite frankly, the guys are going to be rusty coming back. They are going to have to find their rhythm, but hopefully they will find it quickly."

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