Friday , Dec , 24 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Two days before return to LA, Shaq leads Heat over Kings

Sacramento, CA (Sports Network) – Shaquille O’Neal scored 25 points with 10
rebounds, and Damon Jones hit a three-pointer with 23.4 seconds remaining to
give Miami a 109-107 victory over Sacramento at Arco Arena.

O’Neal was 11-of-19 from the field two days before his anticipated return to
Los Angeles for a Christmas Day game against the Lakers. He was only 3-of-13
from the foul line, though, and he missed two key free throws near the end
that could have locked up the game for Miami.

But he came up big with a block of Sacramento’s Mike Bibby after that, and the
Heat held on for the win after trailing by 12 early in the fourth quarter.
They have won 10 straight.

“We were able to get the lead to single digits,” O’Neal said, “and then we
just took over the game.”

Dwyane Wade added 22 points and 10 assists for Miami, and Eddie Jones scored
21. Damon Jones ended with 18.

Chris Webber scored 26 points to lead Sacramento, but he had just 13 after a
strong first quarter. Bibby added 21 points in the win and Peja Stojakovic had
19 — including a three-pointer that gave the Kings a brief 107-106 lead with
35.3 seconds left in the game.

Sacramento led by as many as 12 points in the fourth quarter when Stojakovic’s
free throws made it 101-89 midway through.

But the Kings went without a field goal for more than four minutes, and Miami
used a 13-1 run to pull even at 102-102. Maurice Evans followed with a dunk to
end Sacramento’s drought, but an O’Neal put back tied it again and Damon Jones
made a pair of free throws to give the Heat a 106-104 lead.

Stojakovic followed with a three at the other end to give the Kings a brief
107-106 edge with 35.3 to play.

But Damon Jones responded after a timeout to hand Miami its final margin.

Brad Miller, playing with 15 stitches in his right shin after a collision with
Wade in the first quarter, missed a jumper after that. O’Neal then missed the
two free throws with 10.9 remaining, but came up big by blocking Bibby’s soft
floater in the lane.

Sacramento had one last chance, but Webber missed a long three at the buzzer
after an inbounds pass.

The Kings lost for just the third time in their last 12 games.

They opened the game hot, shooting a scorching 61 percent in the first quarter
on the way to a 34-21 lead. Webber had 14 points in the period.

The Kings opened their largest lead early in the second quarter when a
Evans bucket made it 38-21. Miami later erased a 10-point deficit with an 8-0
run, pulling within 54-52 in the final minute of the first half.

But Sacramento scored the final three points of the half for a 57-52 edge at
intermission, despite being outshot by Miami 53 percent to 48. Wade, Eddie
Jones and Webber all had 14 points in the first half.

Sacramento led by as many as nine points early in the third quarter, but a
15-4 run gave the Heat a 69-67 advantage — their first lead since 11-10.

Miami went ahead by as many as six points several times, but the Kings ended
the quarter strong for an 83-81 edge heading into the fourth.