After Dampier harassed O’Neal into two late misses in a 109-104 Dallas victory over the Miami Heat on Tuesday night, O’Neal turned his postgame interview into a Dampier bashing session.
“Damp is soft. Quote it, write it, tape it and send it to him,” said O’Neal, who until this season played Dampier four times a year but never spoke out against him. “I tell you, there’s nothing there.”
Dampier refused to be drawn into a war of words with someone he described as “outweighing me by 80 pounds.” He repeatedly said the scoreboard is all that matters and the Mavs are 2-0 against the Heat this season.
“If he says I’m soft, I’m soft. It’s no big deal,” said Dampier, who had 15 points and 14 rebounds. “Winning is more important than any remarks he might make.”
O’Neal had 25 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and three blocks, but it wasn’t enough to stretch Miami’s three-game winning streak. The Heat blew a 97-91 lead with 4:34 left by not scoring again until hitting two 3-pointers in the final 11.6 seconds. By then, the Mavericks had taken control, thanks mostly to Jerry Stackhouse.
Stackhouse scored 10 of his team-high 24 points during that closing stretch, including the go-ahead basket. His only miss in that span even turned out OK as Josh Howard put it right back in for a 101-98 lead that brought the large, loud crowd to its feet.
“We didn’t do a good job on Stackhouse one-on-one and that’s a decision that beat us,” Miami coach Stan Van Gundy said.
The Heat missed eight straight shots during their drought. O’Neal contributed a pair, which was surprising because he’d made 11 of his previous 12. Dallas rankled him by switching to a zone and forcing him to catch the ball farther from the rim than he likes.
Plus, there was the Dampier factor—whatever that was. O’Neal never specified what angered him and if Dampier knew, he didn’t say.
“I’m sure he’s frustrated because they lost,” Dampier said.
O’Neal is often frustrated by Dallas, although the source is usually coach Don Nelson’s defensive schemes (Nelson started the Hack-a-Shaq, prompting O’Neal to once call him “a clown”) and-or Mavs center Shawn Bradley. This time, O’Neal was complimentary about Bradley, at least in comparison to his comments about Dampier.
Dirk Nowitzki fought through cold symptoms to score 19 points. He was nowhere near as dominant as the previous meeting, when he scored 41, but he still hit a jumper and two free throws during the winning rally. The energy-sapping illness might have been part of the reason he got to the line just three times, 10 fewer than his big game against the Heat.
“In warmups, I never really got loose,” Nowitzki said. “Once I got a sweat going, I felt better.”
Dwyane Wade led Miami with 29 points, eight assists and six rebounds. He had several stunning dunks and a halftime buzzer-beater among his 29 points, but contributed two wild misses during Miami’s meltdown. Udonis Haslem had 14 points and nine rebounds, but also missed an open layup to start the collapse.
Dallas was coming off an ugly home loss to Allen Iverson-less Philadelphia and is going into a stretch of five games in eight days. The Mavs also play seven of their next eight on the road.
“This is a huge week for us,” Nowitzki said.
Miami dominated the first half, but was outscored by nine while O’Neal was on the bench and the game was close into the third quarter. Dallas began to break away, then the Heat opened the fourth with a 9-0 run to tie it.
Avery Johnson, filling in for Nelson as coach of the Mavs, got his first technical for arguing a call against Howard in the game’s opening minutes. … Miami made 48.3 percent of its shots, after making a season-worst 37.2 percent in a 113-93 loss to Dallas in November. … Forget the Super Bowl. This was the place to see Dallas Cowboys. Among those in the crowd: Former stars Roger Staubach and Drew Pearson, plus current stars Roy Williams, Keyshawn Johnson and Jason Witten. Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt was courtside, too; he and Williams are frequent attendees.