Shaquille O’Neal is enjoying waiting until the fourth quarter to take over games.
Dwyane Wade just missed a triple-double with 26 points, nine rebounds and nine assists as Miami posted a 92-84 victory over Memphis on Friday. O’Neal came through with 11 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and combined with Wade for 19 of the Heat’s final 23 points.
“I was just trying to get everybody else involved,” O’Neal said. “And then in the fourth quarter, I told them, ‘Make sure I get it.”’
O’Neal has seen his playing time limited to a career-low 33.9 minutes per game thanks to the performance of his teammates. Christian Laettner and Michael Doleac have given Miami’s frontcourt a major boost.
“For the first time in my career, I can feel comfortable about sitting down,” O’Neal said. “These guys are my first true backups. I can get some rest. Mike’s going to put up six to eight (points). Christian’s going to put up six to eight. So as long as those guys keep doing that and remain confident, we’re going to go a long way.”
Toronto has lost six straight since a 94-92 win at Miami on Nov. 30. Making matters worse, disgruntled star swingman Vince Carter was placed on the injured list Friday with a strained left Achilles’ tendon.
“It’s just something that’s been bothering me for three years,” Carter said. “I want to let it settle down and get better instead of having it nag me.”
Toronto has been hampered by internal feuds all season and a new one between coach Sam Mitchell and Jalen Rose may be brewing. Mitchell was critical of Rose after the small forward managed just three points in Friday’s loss.
“I think being a team is the ability to try and find a way to get the most out of each guy,” Rose said. “For some reason we have guys who are not performing up to their ability, for whatever reason and I think it is showing. ”