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Newz Forum: BASKETBALL: Shaq, Heat draw near-sellout crowd for preseason win

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posted on Oct, 18 2004 @ 09:58 PM
MIAMI -- Shaquille O'Neal swatted away Boris Diaw's layup to preserve a 26-point lead, then waved into a nearby television camera the moment he landed on his feet.

O'Neal found a few ways to say hello to his new city Monday night, dominating so much in the early going that he was able to sit out almost an entire half of the Miami Heat's 92-82 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

It was O'Neal's one and only appearance at the AmericanAirlines Arena during the preseason, and he decided to play after missing the Heat's two previous games with a sore hamstring. The game drew a near-sellout crowd of 18,454, and the Heat even had fans in the fourth-level balcony -- a section of the arena that was closed and curtained off for 40 of their 41 home games last season.

"You're in October, it's NBA preseason basketball and there's usually not a lot of excitement anywhere for preseason basketball," Miami coach Stan Van Gundy said. "But because of the acquisition of Shaquille, we've got the excitement of a regular-season opener here, which is great for the city."

O'Neal finished with 15 points, six rebounds and three blocks in 21 minutes. He addressed the crowd prior to the opening tipoff, thanking those who purchased season tickets and telling everyone he was "Glad to be here."

O'Neal also was glad to see overmatched fourth-year center Jason Collier trying to stop him, scoring nine of Miami's first 11 points -- all from very short range.

"I want to go out there and give the fans a good show, show them everything is going to be OK," said O'Neal, who had 11 points and two rebounds by the time he took his first rest with Miami leading 20-11. His blocked shot against Diaw with 1.9 seconds left in the first half helped Miami to a 55-29 lead.

O'Neal played less than 5 minutes in the third quarter, his best moment coming when he fired a pass three-quarters of the length of the court that Dwyane Wade turned into a dunk.

Atlanta, using a rotation that included four newcomers -- Antoine Walker, Al Harrington, Josh Childress and Kenny Anderson -- in the starting lineup, didn't get its deficit into single digits until the final 30 seconds.

Wade led Miami with 18 points, and Walker had 25 for Atlanta.

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