The Miami Heat signed Alonzo Mourning to give them a steady veteran presence behind Shaquille O’Neal. If Mourning continues to play like he did in the Heat’s last game, he might find himself spending more of his time next to the team’s star center.
After sparking Miami to yet another come-from-behind victory, Mourning looks to help lead the Heat to a second straight win when they host the Utah Jazz.
Mourning had 16 points, eight rebounds and several shot-changing defensive plays in 23 minutes to help Miami rally past Cleveland 98-92 on Sunday.
Mourning’s performance helped his team overcome a subpar game from O’Neal, who spent all but 2 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter on the bench. Mourning scored the first six points in a 9-0 run that gave Miami an 84-77 lead with 4:36 left. He finished 6-for-7 from the field as the Heat rallied from a 15-point first-half deficit and won despite a 47-point effort from LeBron James.
O’Neal had only 18 points and eight rebounds and committed five turnovers, but coach Pat Riley created an interesting pairing when he played O’Neal and Mourning together for the first time this season. Miami outscored Cleveland 13-8 with the combination in the lineup during a 4 1/2 -minute stretch in the third quarter.
“Whatever works, whatever scenario out there that will help us be successful is what I’m about,” Mourning said. “I don’t care about anything else. I just want to win. I just want us to be successful. If Riles (Heat coach Pat Riley) has the confidence in us being out on the floor together and it’s working, then I have the utmost confidence in it. I know how effective it can be.”
Riley was at least thinking about it after Sunday’s win.
“Both those guys keep their heads under the rim and I usually have one big high and one big low, and now am I going to start picking and flaring Shaquille and picking and flaring Zo (Mourning)?” Riley said. “I don’t know. We will see about it. It might be something we work on.”
Dwyane Wade had the biggest hand in offsetting James’ huge game, scoring a team-high 35 points to help Miami bounce back from Friday’s loss to Golden State and win for the 11th time in 12 games. The Heat’s star guard also favored the idea of playing the team’s top big men at the same time.
“When the playoffs come, we can be very efficient with those two guys,” said Wade, who has averaged 31.0 points in four career games against the Jazz. “They clog up the paint a lot in the defensive end. That is something we are looking forward to, especially late in the game.”
Miami has erased a halftime deficit in each of the last six contests, going 5-1 in that span.
The Jazz are 10th in the Western Conference, 1 1/2 games behind Sacramento for the eighth and final playoff spot. Utah will be opening a four-game road trip Tuesday.
The Jazz nearly rallied from a 14-point third-quarter deficit Saturday before coming up short in a 90-87 home loss to Dallas. Utah, which was trying to win three in a row for the first time since Jan. 7-11, was victimized by Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 12 of his 34 points in a decisive stretch of the fourth quarter after Utah took its only lead.
“We had an opportunity to keep (the lead), but Dirk had a tremendous game and in the fourth quarter he just killed us,” said Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Utah’s Mehmet Okur had 32 points and 11 boards.