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O’Neal too tough for Timberwolves

From the Associated Press

Shaquille O’Neal knows there are naysayers who question whether he’s still a dominant force for the Miami Heat.

He repeatedly insists that doesn’t bother him.

But he’s enjoying disproving those notions too.

Using jump hooks, drop steps and dunks, O’Neal scored a season-high 32 points Friday night, lifting the surging Heat to a 105-91 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. He made his first seven shots, was 13 of 16 from the field and had nine rebounds, as Miami won its fifth consecutive game and 11th straight at home.

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“Once you learn how to do something, you don’t lose it,” O’Neal said. “Unless you die.”

Jason Williams scored 20 points on nine-for-13 shooting and Eddie Jones had 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Heat, who shot 58% and moved to within 2 1/2 games of Washington for the Southeast Division lead.

Detroit 95, Denver 92 -- The Pistons’ lead was 90-76 after a layup and two free throws by Chauncey Billups with 2:25 left at Denver. The Eastern Conference leaders increased their lead over idle Cleveland to three games in the Central Division. The Nuggets are 0-21 when scoring under 100 points, 0-10 at home.

Atlanta 106, Memphis 105 -- Josh Smith’s three-point play with 11.5 seconds left at Atlanta handed the Grizzlies their sixth consecutive loss. Memphis had taken a 105-103 lead on a basket by Damon Stoudamire with 28 seconds left. The Grizzlies, who have the worst record in the league (15-48), are 4-28 on the road, also the worst in the league.

Boston 118, Seattle 103 -- The Celtics outscored the SuperSonics, 61-37, in the second half at Boston for their fifth win in six games. Al Jefferson, who scored 22 of his game-high 31 points in the second half, keyed a 17-0 run in the third quarter.

Houston 112, New Jersey 91 -- Tracy McGrady scored 34 points, and Yao Ming had 24 points and 13 rebounds in his first home game since returning from a leg injury. McGrady topped 30 points for the 18th time this season.

Phoenix 104, New Orleans 103 -- The Suns held off the Hornets at Phoenix to hand them their fourth loss in a row. New Orleans scored four points during the final 49 seconds and had a chance to win, but David West missed a nine-foot hook.


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