O’Neal scored a season-high 40 points after Wade left in the first half with a sprained left ankle, helping the Heat win their season-high fifth straight, a 106-83 victory over the Washington Wizards.
Wade badly wanted to keep playing , but O’Neal wouldn’t let him.
“He was limping real bad,” O’Neal said. “I told him, ‘Flash, take the game off. I’ll go out and do the work.’
“He said, ‘If I’m going to take it easy, you have to get 40 or 50.’ I told him, ‘I’ve got your back.”’
Wade, Miami’s leading scorer, was hurt while stealing the ball with 4:19 left in the first half and exited a minute later. His absence was more “precautionary than anything else,” according to a Heat spokesperson.
Wade said he expects to play Wednesday night at Washington.
“I’m not worried about not scoring because I didn’t play that long,” said Wade, who went scoreless in 18 minutes. “I’m just happy for Shaq to come out and play a dominant game like he did. Just like he said he was going to do.”
O’Neal shot 15-of-23 and added 12 rebounds and five blocks as Miami beat Washington for the seventh consecutive time. O’Neal’s previous season-high was 34 Nov. 30 against Toronto.
Gilbert Arenas scored 18 points for Washington, which lost for only the third time in 12 games.
Kwame Brown added 16 points for the Wizards, who had won two straight.
“There’s no game plan that works against Shaq,” Brown said. “Anybody who tells you that, they’re crazy.”
The Heat used a 26-11 run in the fourth quarter—with O’Neal scoring 12 during the spurt—to open a 102-80 cushion with 2:35 left.
“That’s what we’re going to have to do when (me or Wade) go out,” O’Neal said. “The other one is going to have to step up.”
The Wizards scored just 32 points in the first half—their lowest output of the season—and trailed by 11 at the break. Leading scorers Antawn Jamison (1-of-7), Larry Hughes (2-of-11) and Arenas (2-of-9) contributed to 33 percent shooting before intermission.
“Hopefully, that will be the only time that happens this year,” Hughes said of the trio’s struggles. “We had good looks, but we definitely can’t shoot the ball like that and expect to win.”
O’Neal had 15 points, seven rebounds and four blocks in the first half. He scored 10 points to help Miami take a 20-16 lead after one quarter.
“I think the key to the game tonight is that I now have had two and a half months to work with Shaq on his post moves,” Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said with a smile. “And with my expertise down low, his game is coming along.”
Miami’s previous low for first-half points allowed was 37 against Washington on Nov. 9. … The Heat are 14-0 when leading entering the fourth quarter. … Washington lost the battle of points in the paint, 56-32.