Heat, Rockets ready for big early-season matchup
(Sports Network) – Two of the NBA’s premier big men will oppose one another
this evening in Miami, where Shaquille O’Neal and the defending world champion
Heat entertain Yao Ming’s Houston Rockets at American Airlines Arena.
O’Neal is a former league Most Valuable Player, but it’s Yao who is putting up
MVP-type numbers in the early going. The Chinese star is averaging 26.2
points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks over Houston’s first six games and is
coming off a monster performance in the team’s 103-94 victory over the Knicks
Yao racked up 35 points on 15-of-21 shooting, grabbed 17 rebounds and tied a
career-high with seven blocked shots. Tracy McGrady added 13 points and eight
assists, while Rafer Alston had 13 points, six assists and five rebounds to
help the Rockets to their third straight win.
O’Neal is off to a much slower start, as the 34-year-old is averaging 13.7
points and 6.7 rebounds, numbers well below his career norms. He has played in
only three of Miami’s first five games because of a bruised left knee, but
returned to action on Friday and made a contribution to the Heat’s 113-106 win
at New Jersey.
Shaq chipped in 13 points and six rebounds in 29 minutes of playing time for
Miami, which received huge performances out of Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem.
Dwyane Wade had a season-high 34 points and also dished out 10 assists, while
Haslem scored a career-best 28 points and pulled down nine rebounds.
Antoine Walker added 15 points and 10 boards for the Heat, who have won two in
a row and three of their last four games.
Miami will be playing the first of three straight home games tonight. The Heat
will also host Denver and the Knicks on the stand.
Houston was swept by Miami in last year’s home-and-home series and has lost in
its last three visits to American Airlines Arena.