Thursday , Nov , 04 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Shaq makes Heat debut, Miami wins

East Rutherford, NJ (Sports Network) – Dwyane Wade paced a balanced attack
with 21 points and Shaquille O’Neal added 16 in his Heat debut, leading Miami
to an easy 100-77 win over the New Jersey Nets at the Meadowlands.

O’Neal started despite a lingering hamstring injury that threatened to derail
his first appearance with his new team. He only needed to play 21 minutes, but
he was effective when on the floor.

“I felt pretty good,” O’Neal said. “We’ve been working so hard, myself and the
guys. We were focused and we came to play.”

Rasual Butler also had 16 points for the Heat, who opened the season with a
road win for the first time in franchise history. Wade also had six assists
and five rebounds while three others scored in double digits, including all
five starters.

Richard Jefferson led the way for the Nets with 19 points and Zoran Planinic
came off the bench to score 11. Alonzo Mourning, who was forced into
retirement early last season because of his chronic kidney condition, had
seven points in 14 minutes in his first game with a new kidney.

The loss marks what could be the beginning of a very long season for the Nets,
who pared the payroll under new owner Bruce Ratner, dismantling a team that
went to the NBA Finals in consecutive seasons in 2002 and ’03.

Gone are rugged forward Kenyon Martin and veteran shooter Kerry Kittles to
Denver and the Clippers, respectively. Not to mention that All-Star point
guard Jason Kidd is expected to be sidelined until December after offseason
knee surgery.

“It’s a process and it’s going to be a long season,” said Nets coach Lawrence
Frank, who will be working in his first full season. “We’re disappointed in
our performance and we have a long way to go.”

The Heat dominated at the outset, scoring the first seven points of the night
on the way to a 29-15 first-quarter lead. Wade gave Miami a glimpse of the
future when he fed the ball inside to O’Neal for a big dunk.

New Jersey made just 4-of-19 shots in the opening 12 minutes, paling in
comparison to Miami’s 11-for-16 clip.

Planinic netted eight points off the bench in the first half of the second
period to get the Nets within striking distance. Ron Mercer finished off the
stanza with six of New Jersey’s next eight points before halftime to pull his
team within two before Eddie Jones’ three in the waning seconds made it 46-41.

Jones, Wade and Butler tallied 10 points apiece in the first half, as did
Jefferson at the other end.

The third period resembled the first, with the Heat reeling off 28 points to
go ahead by 18. A three by Butler with seven minutes to go keyed a 7-0 spurt
that handed Miami a 12-point advantage and Malik Allen’s jumper with 10
seconds left made it 74-56.

The onslaught continued in the fourth with O’Neal watching from the bench in
the final eight minutes. A three by Damon Jones with 7:12 to play gave Miami
an 86-60 cushion and the Heat coasted from there.

“I think we were really tight in the first quarter,” Jefferson said. “We
calmed down in the second quarter. In the second half, we just didn’t get it

The Nets were held without a three-point shot until Rodney Buford’s trey with
6:13 to go. He made another in the closing stages as New Jersey finished 2-
for-8 from beyond the arc.