Heat 109, Suns 105
Dwyane Wade dominated for three quarters, then let his teammates take over and they responded perfectly.
Wade finished with 33 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, but uncharacteristically had only one point and two assists in the final period. That didn't matter.
``He (O'Neal) was very good down the stretch,'' Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Following his field goal, which put Miami ahead 105-104, O'Neal went up high to corral a miss by Jason Richardson and was fouled by Amare Stoudemire.
``On the rebound, he used all of his 40-inch vertical leap,'' Spoelstra said.
O'Neal then converted both free throws with 10.9 seconds left. After Steve Nash's missed 3-pointer, Udonis Haslem made two foul shots for Miami's final points.
Michael Beasley added 21 points and 10 rebounds for Miami, Dorell Wright scored 15 points and O'Neal finished with 13.
Stoudemire had 18 points and 18 rebounds for the Suns. Grant Hill added 18 points and 13 rebounds, Nash had 16 points and 12 assists, and Channing Frye and Richardson scored 15 apiece.
As has become the Suns' habit, they bolted to a big early lead, building a 13-point advantage with 4:03 gone in the second period, then surrendering it. The Heat outscored the Suns 29-10 the remainder of the first half for a 59-53 lead at the break. Beasley, Wade and Wright accounted for 27 of Miami's points during that rally.
By intermission, Beasley already had 18 points and Wade 16.
Two major factors in the Heat's comeback were their offensive rebounding and the Suns' sloppy play on offense. Miami had eight offensive boards, leading to eight points, while the Suns had only two offensive rebounds for one point. Phoenix also had 11 turnovers, six by Nash, resulting in 15 Miami points, while the Heat had only four miscues, setting up two Suns points.
Wade continued to torment the Suns in the third quarter, scoring 16 points, including Miami's first 10, and the Heat finished the period with an 81-76 lead. The Suns took a 73-70 lead with 3:08 remaining in the quarter on two free throws by Richardson, but the Heat ended the period on an 11-3 run.
``I had one of my best third quarters of late,'' Wade said modestly.
The return of guard Rafer Alston also sparked the Heat. Alston, waived by New Jersey on Tuesday, started and scored 10 points, all in the second half, and did a solid defensive job on Nash.
``That is about as good as you can do on an MVP candidate,'' Spoelstra said.
Nash shot only 6 of 14 from the field. Wade also praised Alston's playmaking skills.
``It was good to see No. 11 back,'' Wade said of Alston, who played with the Heat in 2003-04. ``He made us get out and push the game.''
Suns coach Alvin Gentry bemoaned his team's lack of effort throughout the entire game.
``I thought we played a good first quarter, but we keep having these problems in the second quarter that we need to take care of,'' he said. ``We get leads and we come out and play great but then we give it all back in the second quarter
``We have to resolve that situation so that we aren't playing from behind in the second half. I'm disappointed in some of the things we did effort-wise.''
Stoudemire agreed with his coach.
``We need to have a consistent effort out there for a full 48 minutes,'' Stoudemire said. ``We slacked a bit in the second half and we can't afford that. We have to do a better job of maintaining our intensity.''
NOTES: Wade has scored in double figures in a franchise-record 128 consecutive games. ... The game against the Suns began the Heat's longest road trip of the season - six games. Next are the Los Angeles Clippers, followed by Utah, Golden State, Houston and Oklahoma City. ... This is the seventh season that Wade and Haslem have played together with the Heat, making them the first pair of Miami teammates to play together for any part of a seventh year. ... Stoudemire began the game as the NBA leader in dunks with 78, one ahead of Orlando's Dwight Howard.