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O'Neal, Hardaway lead Heat past slumping Nets

Nov 18, 2007 - 5:19 AM By Joe Rizzo PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- In a matchup of the two lowest-scoring teams in the league, it was an old duo that helped the Miami Heat get back into the win column.

Shaquille O'Neal scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half and Penny Hardaway's key long-range shooting helped the struggling Heat to just their second win of the season with a 91-87 victory over the slumping New Jersey Nets.

"We still had a lot of mental mistakes," O'Neal said. "We had a 10-point lead, but they cut it down. I think we should have won by 10 or 15 points. We have let a lot of games slip away and, of course, all the games that slip away are my fault."

Hardaway scored a season-high 16 points, while making all six of his shots, including four from the arc. O'Neal and Hardaway - who played together in Orlando for three seasons - combined to score 16 points in the fourth quarter for the Heat, who snapped a three-game losing streak.

New Jersey had a chance to tie the game, but Richard Jefferson missed a layup in heavy traffic with under five seconds remaining and Dwyane Wade grabbed the rebound to seal the victory after no foul or basket interference was called.

"I felt like I let my team down tonight with the way I played in the fourth quarter and then with that last play," Jefferson said. "It could have gone either way, I guess. Someone told me that someone touched the rim, but that's just what happens in the chaos of the last few seconds. Regardless, I feel like I should have made the shot."

"Richard Jefferson was right at the rim," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "I don't know if he got fouled."

Wade's drive into the paint with 14.5 seconds remaining resulted in a foul against Jason Collins, although it appeared to be a highly questionable call. Wade missed both shots, keeping the Nets alive.

"We got fortunate at the end," Miami coach Pat Riley said. "They had a point-blank layup I think some(one) might have changed (the shot). We dodged a big bullet and got the win."

The Heat had a two-point lead after the third quarter but led by many as 10 with 5:37 to play after O'Neal's layup. Antoine Wright's 3-pointer with 3:24 left capped a 14-4 run that cut the Nets' deficit to 83-81.

Wade had 23 points and nine assists in his third game - second start - for the Heat, who have both of their wins in the New York metropolitan area. Miami broke a three-game losing streak with its first win since November 11, when the Heat beat the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

"I haven't played basketball in six months," said Wade, who is returning from a knee injury. "I'm trying to get the engine going. I'm not where I want to be, but I am happy to be playing."

Wade was his old self as the game progressed, continually getting into the lane and drawing contact. He was 15-of-20 from the foul line, while O'Neal was 6-of-7. Udonis Haslem, who made both of his shots, was the only other Miami player to get to the line.

"We're a different team when I'm in the game," Wade said. "I put pressure on the other team."

With Vince Carter's sprained right ankle keeping him on the sidelines for the fourth straight game, Frank changed things up, inserting rookie Sean Williams and veteran Jamaal Magloire into the starting frontcourt alongside Jefferson.

The new starting lineup was energized by Jason Kidd, who assisted on all seven of New Jersey's baskets in the first quarter en route to a 23-18 edge after the opening period.

Kidd finished with 16 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds and Williams scored a career-high 22 for the Nets, who fell for the fifth straight game after opening the season 4-1.

"We were missing some players, so other people need to step up," Williams said. "I guess tonight was my night."

The Heat outscored the Nets, 18-6, over the final six minutes of the first half as Miami took a 45-35 lead at the break. New Jersey committed 18 turnovers in the first half and finished the game with one more field goal (27) than giveaways (26) on the night.

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