Suns
Heat
129 - 135 Final
  for this game

Shaq comes up short again as Wade torches Suns

Mar 5, 2009 - 5:09 AM MIAMI (Ticker) -- Shaquille O'Neal's homecoming week hasn't treated him very well - and for all his talking, he hasn't been able to back it up with a victory.

One night after getting upstaged at his old Orlando home by his presumptive replacement as the league's marquee center, Dwight Howard, O'Neal was served another dose of home cooking from his former faithful as the Miami Heat came away with a 135-129 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

"I had great times here, it was fun here, won a championship here, have a lot of friends here, and still live here," Shaq said. "It was a fun game."

Shaq spent 3 1/2 seasons with the Heat, helping to lead them to an NBA title in 2006, before being dealt to the Suns last season. This week, he has had a chance to return home twice, but in the midst of it all he got into a public war of words with his former head coach and current Magic coach Stan Van Gundy.

His return to South Florida, where Van Gundy once coached him, was all about Shaq's former tag-team partner. MVP candidate Dwyane Wade torched the Suns for 35 points and 16 assists as the Heat continued their push for one of the top four spots in the Eastern Conference.

"D-Wade is having a fabulous season and all the other guys are playing well," Shaq said. "Me coming back here is just like another game because of having friends on the other team. I've been in this situation before where it was kind of hostile, but there is no hostility here."

Wade set the tone from the outset, furiously attacking the basket against a Phoenix defense that was simply no physical match. He opened things up with a short jumper in the lane, added a 19-footer and then scored on three driving layups in a row to open up an early one-point lead.

"I know how Shaq plays the pick-and-roll, so early on you have to take advantage of it before they make the changes," Wade said. "Early on, that's what I did and then later on they made the change and I was still able to be effective."

He added three more jumpers later in the period, including a 3-pointer, to stake Miami to a 40-29 advantage. But it wasn't simply a one-man show. With the Suns hanging around early in the fourth quarter, Michael Beasley took the reins, dropping in three buckets and Mario Chalmers followed with a 3-pointer.

"It was extremely fun. I felt like the old me," Beasley said. "I was actually comfortable the whole game. That's really important especially in a game like this."

With just under six minutes to play, Beasley converted a three-point play to push Miami's lead to 116-109, but Shaq wasn't about to let the Suns fade away. The All-Star center answered with a dunk on the other end. With two minutes to play, he added another, pulling Phoenix to within 123-119.

But Wade was too much. He calmly responded just 14 seconds later, pulling up for a short jumper and adding three free throws over the next minute as time ran out on the Suns.

"Probably more so than ever now, he's taking the burden of the team and making other players better," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Wade. "He's always had a gift at doing that before, but now he's doing it game after game and setting up multiple players."

Shaq finished with 22 points and eight boards and Steve Nash added 29 and 10 assists, but it wasn't enough as the Suns dropped their second straight contest.

Having entered the night two games behind Dallas (36-24) for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference, Phoenix's postseason chances remain in jeopardy.

"We can't be a team that shoots almost 60 percent and score almost 130 points and lose," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "We have to find a way to come up with some stops."

Beasley and Daequan Cook both came off the bench to set career benchmarks in scoring, with Beasley dropping in 28 and nine boards and Cook adding 27 points on 9-of-14 shooting, including 6-of-8 from long range.

"It was great," Wade said of his bench's play. "We're going to need that production of the bench for the rest of the season. They are two guys that we are going to need and I think they understand that to be successful down the stretch they are going to have to play well."