MIAMI (AP)—When Minnesota went to the Hack-a-Shaq technique in the fourth quarter, Shaquille O’Neal turned toward Timberwolves coach Kevin McHale and shouted, “It don’t work.”
It didn’t. And these days, everything is working for the Miami Heat.
O’Neal had 33 points, 13 rebounds, shot 10-for-18 from the field and 13-for-18 from the foul line to lift the Miami Heat to their seventh straight victory, 107-90 Thursday night over the Timberwolves.
He was 5-for-6 from the line during Minnesota’s stint of intentional fouls, and had 12 points during a game-ending 41-16 Miami run.
“Historically, I’ve shot 50 percent, so that’s miss one and make one,” said O’Neal, a 46.9-percent foul shooter this season. “The more attempts I get, it’s like more practice. … I’m not going to miss them all.”
Miami, which had the league’s lowest free-throw percentage (.674) coming into the game, was 33-for-41 from the line, compared with an 11-for-15 effort by the Timberwolves.
Dwyane Wade added 20 points for Miami, which won its 11th straight at home and expanded its lead in the Eastern Conference to eight games over idle Detroit. Miami (47-16) has 19 regular-season games remaining.
Kevin Garnett had 22 points and 19 rebounds for Minnesota, which lost for the first time in four games. The Timberwolves were 7-1 in their last eight games against Miami and led by eight points with 2:21 left in the third quarter, but shot just 31.8 percent the rest of the way.
“I’m trying to win a game,” said McHale, when asked about the Hack-a-Shaq. “I could care less. … That’s something that Shaq will have to deal with as long as he’s in the league. We’ll do whatever we have to do to win a game.”
Troy Hudson added 20 points for Minnesota, which fell to 10th in the Western Conference—but just one game behind Denver for the final playoff spot.
“It’s going to take a heck of an effort every night to get that eighth spot,” Garnett said.
Miami was hit twice with technicals for arguing calls; coach Stan Van Gundy drew the first, 1:56 into the game when he argued after officials Scott Foster and Michael Henderson differed on a foul call and ultimately sided with the Timberwolves.
When Wade waved his arms angrily toward Foster after a third-quarter non-call, he drew the second ‘T’—which seemed to energize the second-year guard. He’d been held to nine points at the time, but on Miami’s next possession, Wade drove the lane and dunked over Garnett for a 61-59 Miami lead.
“One of the top 100 dunks of all time,” O’Neal said.
Minnesota responded with a 15-5 spurt over the next 3:55, with Hassell scoring five points—including a jumper that put the Timberwolves up 74-66 with 2:21 left in the third.
But the Heat scored the last eight points of the quarter on a short jumper and 3-pointer by Jones, then a three-point play from Keyon Dooling that tied it at 74. And Miami opened the final period on a 10-2 surge, with Wade and Haslem getting four points each to give the Heat an 84-76 lead with 8:38 left.
From there, Miami simply pulled away.
“The real key stretch for us was at the end of the third quarter,” Van Gundy said. “It was going south. They had an (eight-point) lead. We weren’t playing very well, we weren’t playing with a lot of energy and I thought that Keyon in particular gave us a real big lift in that stretch. Getting it tied was key.”
Miami outscored Minnesota 19-6 over the final 5:34, during which O’Neal got the last 12 of his in a four-minute span, capped by a monster two-handed dunk that put Miami up 102-88 with 1:46 left.
Over the last 16 games, Miami has lost just twice—the game in Chicago where O’Neal played just the first two minutes after spraining his knee, and on the road the next night in Indiana with him still sidelined.
“Everybody’s playing well and everybody has the confidence, no matter what the score is, that we’re going to win the game,” Wade said. “I think it’s our best stretch.”
Miami hit its first 15 free throws. … Garnett had his 53rd double-double, extending his league lead. … Miami improved its NBA-best record to 30-3 when leading at halftime and notched its 22nd win of the year against teams .500 or better, tying Phoenix and Seattle for the league lead. … Since McHale replaced Flip Saunders as coach, Minnesota is 6-5. … Randy Moss, traded from the Minnesota Vikings to Oakland Raiders earlier this month, sat courtside, near the Timberwolves’ bench. … Golfer Greg Norman, who turned 50 on Feb. 10, sat several rows behind a basket and received a No. 50 Heat jersey signed by O’Neal.