for this game

O'Neal leads Suns to rout of Wizards

Jan 27, 2009 - 6:24 AM By Tim Hipps PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- Shaquille O'Neal is thinking about a new lease on NBA life.

O'Neal posted 29 points and eight rebounds in 36 minutes of a back-to-back performance to lead the Phoenix Suns to a 103-87 victory over the Washington Wizards on Monday.

"I feel like I can play three or four more years," said O'Neal, 36, now in his 17th season in the league. "I've got a new medical staff that does stuff that I haven't really had before. As you can see, I'm moving left, I'm moving right, I'm running, I'm jumping, I'm dunking, I'm getting up and hanging on the rim and getting techs, and I haven't felt this good in about two years."

O'Neal shot 10-of-14 from the field and 9-of-10 at the free-throw line one night after posting 19 points and 11 rebounds during a 104-99 victory in Atlanta. His baby hook over a double team gave the Suns an 89-79 lead with 5:18 remaining. He sealed the deal with a dunk for an 97-85 advantage with 1:53 left.

"I've always been like this," O'Neal said. "My problem has just been knick-knack injuries. I mean I think my numbers, you know, speak for itself. There's been a lot of talk that he hasn't been in the greatest of shape, but my style is my style. I always come in at 60 and I end up at 100. There's a lot of guys that try to come in at 100 and can't maintain 100. My style is always going to be my style."

The rest of the Suns are enjoying the show.

"Shaq is such a force in there," said Grant Hill, 36. "He can score. He's setting pick-and-rolls and getting open shots for his teammates. He's been playing really good basketball all season, so it's been fun to watch and fun to be a part of.

"I was exhausted, and we're about the same age, but he was awesome. The Big Fella has been awesome all year. We've rested him at times in back-to-backs, but we needed him tonight and he came through for us."

Steve Nash believes O'Neal can carry his 340-pound load down the stretch.

"He's in good shape so he should be able to handle it from here on out," Nash said. "We gave him a rest for the first half of the season on back-to-backs, but now I look him to play more in those situations. Other than a stretch of last year after an injury, he played like this in Miami, I think. He just had that injury-bug season last year where he never really got his rhythm.

"It's a lot of fun to see him get it back after that injury-plagued season and for him to feel like a force again."

Phoenix took control when Leandro Barbosa sandwiched two 3-pointers around a reverse layup for an 87-79 lead with 7:58 left. He finished with 23 points.

"Barbosa was huge for us off the bench in the second half," Suns coach Terry Porter said. "He just made some timely shots and extended our lead when we needed to extend our leads and just allowed us to maintain that cushion."

Amare Stoudemire, the Suns' first frontcourt starter for the Western Conference All-Star Team since Charles Barkley in 1996, added 22 points and 15 rebounds for Phoenix.

Caron Butler had 28 points and Antawn Jamison added 27 points and 13 rebounds for the Wizards, who lost their third straight.

"I can't ask Caron Butler or Antawn Jamison to do any more than they do," Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott said. "It is imperative that we find a third guy to give us consistent scoring."

Tapscott praised the Suns' wily veteran.

"Shaq played an awesome game," he said. "We were trying our best to give our young guys help guarding Shaq, but he exposed the double team by finding the open shooters. He has played in the NBA a long time and is very familiar with the defensive rotations. This knowledge allowed him to find the right shooters at the right time."

The Suns opened the third quarter with a 9-3 run, capped by Jason Richardson's layup for a 60-54 lead. Stoudemire's putback stretched the Suns' lead to eight midway through the third.

Nash's 3-pointer pulled the Suns into a 51-51 halftime tie.

Jamison had 20 points and eight rebounds in the first half for the Wizards, who led by six in the second quarter.

"The only thing you can do is stay positive and hope that the future holds something better," Jamison said. "Right now, we need to keep plugging away and keep fighting. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you."

O'Neal, who playfully kissed Butler on the head in the first quarter, drew a technical for hanging on the rim on the Suns' first possession of the second. On Phoenix's next possession, Matt Barnes fed O'Neal an alley-oop pass for a slam that gave the Suns a 26-25 lead.

"Yeah, because I know that in 700 days it might be over for me," Shaq explained of trying to cherish each and every moment on the court. "My thing is just have fun now and then we'll just see what happens. ... My lease is up after two years now, so if I get a new lease, I might take it on. If not, we'll just have to do something else. Just have fun."

O'Neal is five points shy of passing Hakeem Olajuwon for seventh place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.

"That's my idol," O'Neal said. "For me as a young, former juvenile delinquent who can't shoot free throws, who can't shoot jumpers, it's a pretty big accomplishment. My idol, man. My thing when it's all said and done for me, I would like to have more than four (NBA championships) and I'd like to be in that top five in scoring, rebounding and blocks. As a dad, right now my kids don't even talk about me. They talk about the Kobe and LeBron, and I could say, 'Look at what your daddy did.'"