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Shaq’s Heat Hammer Nets


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Nov. 3 (Ticker) -- While Shaquille O'Neal was not at full strength in his debut for the Miami Heat, the New Jersey Nets already are looking pretty sick.


Battling a sore hamstring and foul trouble, O'Neal didn't need to be the mammoth presence he usually is as the Heat coasted to 100-77 rout of the Nets in the season opener for both teams.


Away from Kobe Bryant, the svelte-looking 325-pound O'Neal is expected to shift the balance of power in the Eastern Conference. O'Neal's status for the opener was in doubt due to a strained left hamstring, but he was able to take the court.


"I told the team not to worry about anything," O'Neal said. "(The hype around the team), I will take care of the marketing and the guys will just have to worry about what happens on the court. I will handle everything else."


O'Neal may have been better off resting as the Heat completely overwhelmed a Nets team that was purged in the offseason. Miami scored the game's first seven points, never trailed and led by as many as 28 points in the fourth quarter.


Almost always commanding a double-team, O'Neal's presence managed to open up things for Dwyane Wade and Rasual Butler. Wade netted 21 points and Butler chipped in 16.


"I'm glad to have him on my team," Wade said. "Tonight he was in foul trouble, but just having him being in the area gives you confidence. With that you know you can go out and do anything."


O'Neal, who picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter, made 7-of-9 shots and collected 16 points and five rebounds in 21 minutes.


"I didn't think he was moving great, obviously not at full strength," Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said. "But when you look up at the game he had 16 points and five rebounds in 21 minutes, because he's a tough guy to stop and our guys are looking for him."


After O'Neal went to bench at the 8:34 mark of the third, the Heat outscored the Nets, 24-13, to end the quarter and open a 74-56 cushion.


Expecting a long season with All-Star point guard Jason Kidd out until at least December and unable to stabilize an overhauled roster, the Nets hardly resembled the team that has made three straight playoff trips, including back-to-back appearances in the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003.


"It's a combination of turnovers and jump shots not formed," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "It's a process, it's going to be a long season. We're very disappointed with our performance and we have a long way to go."


Olympian Richard Jefferson, one of the few stars the Nets still have, scored 19 points. Zoran Planinic, often buried on the bench last season, added 11 and four assists.


"This is a process," Jefferson said. "In the past, we became a great defensive team because we knew each other. We knew what to expect, and we knew each other's strengths and weaknesses. We're going to be all right."


With the Nets concentrating on O'Neal in the first quarter, Butler was the one to benefit. He made 4-of-5 outside shots and scored 10 points, helping the Heat open a 29-15 lead.


"We were focused and came to play," O'Neal said. "My team played really well. Rasual got us off to a good start."


In the first quarter, the Heat shot a sizzling 69 percent (11-of-16). The Nets had as many turnovers (four) as baskets and took the crowd of 17,260 out of the game.


The Nets got back into it in the second quarter, when Ron Mercer scored eight of his nine points to narrow the deficit to 46-41 at the half.


But after O'Neal went to the bench in the third, Udonis Haslem had a follow dunk, Butler buried a 3-pointer and Wade made two free throws, rebuilding the lead to 57-45 with 6:31 to play in the period. New Jersey got no closer than nine points thereafter.


Damon Jones added 15 points for the Heat, who shot 51 percent (37-of-73) and held a 42-36 rebounding advantage. The Nets just shot just 38 percent (28-of-74).


Nets center Alonzo Mourning, making his return to the court after undergoing a kidney transplant last season, had seven points and five rebounds in 14 minutes off the bench against his former team.


This is going to be a great season! :D

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