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

Miami Heat Team Report – December 24

=== Miami Heat Team Report – December 24 ===

(Sports Network) – The matchup that every NBA fan has been waiting for is
here, as Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant will meet as opponents when the red-
hot Miami Heat visit the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center in the
second of of two Christmas NBA Contests.

The Heat and Lakers will play once more this season, as the teams will square
off in Miami on March 17, 2005.

The road team has won six of the last nine meetings in this series. The Lakers
have won three straight and four of the last five contests. Miami has lost two
in a row and eight of its last 10 at the Lakers.

The Heat, who played their first season in the NBA in the 1988-89 campaign,
made their biggest trade in franchise history during the offseason when they
acquired O’Neal from the Lakers on July 14, 2004 in exchange for forwards
Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, Caron Butler and a first-round draft pick. Together
O’Neal and Bryant won three championships with the Lakers. The 32-year-old
O’Neal, who spent eight seasons with fellow All-Star Bryant and the Lakers,
now teams with 22-year-old sensational point guard Dwyane Wade.

O’Neal was originally drafted out of Louisiana State in the first round (1st
overall) of the 1992 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic. He spent four seasons
with Magic before being signed as a free agent by the Lakers on July 18, 1996.

The Heat will go into Saturday’s game on a 10-game winning streak. On
Thursday, 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
the Sacramento Kings at ARCO Arena.

O’Neal was 11-of-19 from the field two days before his anticipated return to
Los Angeles. 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.

Wade added 22 points and 10 assists for Miami in the victory over Sacramento,
while Eddie Jones scored 21 and Damon Jones ended with 18.

Shaq has averaged 21 points and a team-high 10.9 rebounds in 27 games for the
Heat this season, while Wade, who has played in 26 contests, leads Miami in
scoring (23.3 ppg) and assists (7.3 apg).

Miami is 10-4 on the road this season.