Wade scored 28 points and O’Neal added 17 points and nine rebounds in his home debut for his new team as Miami beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 92-86 Thursday night before 20,235 Shaq-crazed fans—the largest crowd to see a Heat home game.
O’Neal scored the game’s first points on Miami’s opening possession and the Heat never trailed, just as they didn’t at any time in Wednesday’s 23-point win at New Jersey.
“I knew what I was doing when I got traded,” said O’Neal, who was shipped to Miami by the Los Angeles Lakers over the summer. “I’m a student of the game. I wanted to go somewhere where I wouldn’t have to start over. This is the team.”
Drew Gooden had 24 points and LeBron James had 21 points and eight rebounds for Cleveland (0-2). Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who tied a career-high with 35 points Wednesday in a double-overtime loss to Indiana, managed just eight against the Heat.
“I thought we played as well as we could play,” Cleveland coach Paul Silas said, “under the circumstances.”
Cleveland was within 61-60 with 4:59 remaining in the third, but Wade scored six points in a 12-6 run that pushed Miami’s lead to 73-66 at the end of the quarter. Wade made 10 of 20 shots, plus added six rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocked shots.
“That’s one of the best performances I’ve seen from a second-year player,” O’Neal said.
A 12-6 Miami run midway through the fourth quarter, with Haslem getting five points, sealed the win. Over the final 17 minutes, Miami held Cleveland to 32.3 percent shooting.
“We had some defensive lapses,” O’Neal said, “but we picked it up in the third and fourth quarter.”
A year ago, the crowd for Miami’s home opener was announced at 15,825 to reflect the number of tickets sold; perhaps 10,000 fans were actually in the arena. No numerical creativity was necessary Thursday.
Most of the fans were seated just to see O’Neal arrive for pregame warmups. They cheered when his face flashed on the jumbotron screens during the national anthem. And perhaps the loudest shouts came with 8:14 left in the first quarter, when he leaped over the Heat bench trying to save a loose ball.
“I didn’t know people were going to be here so early,” Haslem said. “That just made me want to get the buzzer sounded, get the game going and give these people what they came to see.”
Until now, Miami’s largest regular-season crowds were fueled by the drawing power of the opponent’s star; James lured 20,213 last April, and Michael Jordan’s last two visits with the Washington Wizards drew an average of 20,135.
This crowd wanted to see Shaq, and he wasted little time winning them over.
“If you have Shaq,” James said, “then you’re fine.”
He had seven points in the first 3 1/2 minutes—never showing any ill effects of the strained left hamstring that bothered him throughout training camp. O’Neal played in six-minute spurts to protect the hamstring, but remained on the court until the game’s end, indicating that the Heat isn’t overly concerned with the injury.
O’Neal played 32 minutes, shooting 7-of-17 from the floor—and 3-for-9 from the foul line, putting him off to a 5-for-16 start to the season from the stripe. He missed 5 of 6 field-goal tries after halftime.
Jeff McInnis had 14 points for Cleveland, which was held to 38.8 percent shooting.
Miami used a “Shaq in Black” offseason marketing campaign and wore black jerseys Thursday. Cleveland wore white, the home team’s traditional garb. The NBA approved the one-game move. … Cleveland F Scott Williams left in the first quarter with what appeared to be a dislocated right pinky finger, and didn’t return. … Miami won a home opener for the first time in three seasons. … The Cavs fell to 9-22 in Miami. … Mike Piazza of the New York Mets was booed when he appeared on the jumbotron; he won the crowd over by announcing Miami as his pick to win the 2005 NBA title. Later, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was also booed. … Wade addressed the crowd before the game, saying “Help us make some memorable moments like you all did last year.”