WASHINGTON Knowing his bad leg would keep him out of the game, Shaquille O'Neal pulled Alonzo Mourning to the side during the Miami Heat's morning shootaround.
''I need you tonight,'' O'Neal told Mourning.
''Say no more,'' Mourning replied.
The 35-year-old with the transplanted kidney stepped in for the Diesel and played 35 minutes, scored 14 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked four shots. Sure, he looked every bit his age when he was slow getting downcourt a few times, but Mourning and Dwyane Wade had more than enough Thursday night to lead the Heat to a 102-95 victory over the Washington Wizards.
''I've worked my butt off for this type of opportunity,'' Mourning said, ''and I'm anxious to see the reward at the end.''
The Heat lead the series 3-0 and are unbeaten in seven games in the postseason. They can complete their second straight playoff sweep Saturday night.
''We continue to prove people wrong. This is not a one- or two-man team,'' Mourning said. ''We have a lot of guys who understand the goal that we set for ourselves. The reason why this team was assembled was to win a championship.''
Five Miami players scored in a 13-0 third-quarter run that swung the game, and Wade steadied himself after committing five first-quarter turnovers to finish with 31 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Eddie Jones and Damon Jones added 16 points apiece, and Udonis Haslem had 12 points and 12 rebounds. Wade made 14 of 27 shots and finished with eight turnovers, but Mourning's performance which included a couple of energetic goaltending calls was the most inspirational.
''It's fatigue that's keeping him from getting up and down the floor,'' coach Stan Van Gundy said. ''But when it's the moment and the moment for 'Zo defensively is protecting the basket he'll summon the energy.''
Added Mourning: ''I haven't forgotten how to play this game. I just had a transplant that set me back a little bit.''
The deep thigh bruise that has bothered O'Neal for weeks finally caused him to miss a playoff game for the first time in his career, ending a streak of 164 consecutive postseason appearances.
''I was ordered by the powers-that-be to take it easy,'' O'Neal said. ''I looked bad the other night in the fourth quarter, and they didn't want it to get any worse. They have confidence in the team and so do I. The team just played fabulous today.''
O'Neal absence appeared to open a golden opportunity for the Wizards, who had won seven straight at home and needed some momentum after back-to-back losses in Miami. Now, it's hard to imagine them stealing a single game in the series: Washington has lost 11 straight to the Heat.
''Shaq's not playing and it's our first game at home,'' forward Jared Jeffries said. ''We've got to bring a lot more energy than this.''
Gilbert Arenas scored 20 points and set a franchise playoff record with 14 assists for the Wizards, but he committed five of his six turnovers in the second half. Antawn Jamison scored 21 points. Hughes added 19, Juan Dixon 16 and Brendan Haywood 15.
''I played bad in the second half. I didn't make nothing. Couldn't make the right pass, and that cost us the lead,'' Arenas said. ''We got down by 10 and from there we just had to fight back.''
The deficit was 13 early in the fourth quarter and 10 with 4:19 remaining before Arenas led a late charge. He stumbled through the paint for a layup that cut the lead to 98-95 with 1:51 remaining, but Haslem's 18-footer and Wade's falling-down layup pushed the lead back to seven in the final minute.
Mourning's early rebounds were crucial because his teammates were struggling to keep the ball. The Heat committed 11 first-half turnovers. Wade had six.
Washington led 40-34 after two 3-pointers by Arenas and a jumper by Hughes, but Damon Jones and Keyon Dooling quickly tied the game with a pair of 3s. Hughes made two free throws to give the Wizards a 51-49 lead at the half.
The Wizards built their lead to eight with a layup from Arenas, but the Heat responded with the 13-0 run that rattled the home team and stunned the fans. Suddenly, the Heat were leading 65-60.
Shortly afterward, Wade made a spectacular one-handed dunk down the middle of the lane, and the Wizards were completely on their heels. By the end of the quarter, Miami was ahead 79-70. After committing just three turnovers in the first half, the Wizards had seven in the third quarter.
But the Wizards weren't done. After Wade made two baskets to get the lead to 13 early in the fourth quarter, Washington answered with a 12-4 run, capped by Hughes' 3-pointer.
The Heat responded with a 7-0 spurt, with Damon Jones sandwiching two jumpers around a hook shot by Mourning, providing enough cushion to withstand the Wizards' final run.
SuperSonics 92, Spurs 91
SEATTLE It was a great sign for Seattle. All-Stars Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis went scoreless in the fourth quarter, yet the SuperSonics were able to grind out a critical playoff victory.
Allen had an impact despite shooting 0-for-6 in the final period and Vitaly Potapenko forced Tim Duncan into a missed 4-footer at the horn, lifting the Sonics over the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night.
''In the playoffs, a lot of times it comes down to one stop,'' said Antonio Daniels, who had 18 points and eight rebounds. ''Vitaly did a great job of defending with his body.
"He forced him into a tough shot.''
Daniels made four big free throws in the fourth period, Jerome James scored 15 points on 7-of-7 shooting and Lewis finished with 12 points as the Sonics pulled to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 is Sunday in Seattle.
''I thought we played the game they played in Games 1 and 2,'' Seattle coach Nate McMillan said. ''They were the aggressors. They were the team that was physical in the first two games. They had us on our heels.
''Tonight, we came out with a sense of urgency and were aggressive on both ends of the floor,'' he added.
Duncan scored 23 points with 11 rebounds, and his defense was as solid as ever four blocked shots on the day he was selected to the NBA's All-Defensive Team for the sixth straight year.
It wasn't enough to carry the Spurs, who saw their six-game playoff winning streak snapped. This win was huge for the Sonics, because no team has ever won a seven-game playoff series after trailing 3-0.
''It would have been tough,'' Daniels said. ''It would have been hard to have to win four straight against a very good team.''
Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili each scored 18 points, but Seattle did a much better job defensively by keeping San Antonio's quick guards out of the paint. Parker had 29 points in Game 1 and Ginobili 28 in Game 2.
''You have to hustle, scrappy, solid play on both ends of the floor for 48 minutes to have a chance to beat San Antonio,'' McMillan said. ''We did a better job of taking away their transition baskets, their transition points.
"We forced it to a halfcourt game.''
Ginobili made a free throw with 29.3 seconds on the clock, pulling San Antonio to 92-91. After a timeout, the Sonics got the ball to Allen, whose attempt over Duncan from the left baseline bounced off the rim.
That left the Spurs with 2.9 seconds for a final chance. Ginobili inbounded to Duncan, who drove to his left on Potapenko. Duncan squared up to the basket, but his shot bounced off the rim at the horn.
''Got where I wanted to get, and I had a great look at it,'' Duncan said. ''Unfortunately, it didn't drop for me.''
Said Potapenko: ''I tried to keep my body on him, not be too aggressive because you know at the end of the game they could call an easy foul even if I extend my hand or he fakes ths shot.''
The Sonics held San Antonio without a field goal over the final 4:27. From there, the Spurs hit 4-for-10 from the foul line. They shot 55.9 percent (19-of-34) from the line, including 8-for-16 in the fourth period.
''Our performance at the free throw line was a single-handed great way to lose a game,'' San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said.
The Sonics, outplayed decisively in double-digit losses to open the series in Texas, came out with the game they had to have. McMillan, sensing his team was tight, wanted the Sonics to have fun.
They cut down on the 31 turnovers they committed over two games in San Antonio, limiting themselves to 11 this time for only nine Spurs points. And they did a better job of forcing the pace so the Spurs were unable to jam the lane defensively.
''We combated by going at them in the paint,'' Allen said. ''In the first two games, I think we shied away from it a little bit.''
This one was very physical a real bruiser. Daniels caught Robert Horry's knee on his sore left knee, Ginobili took Danny Fortson's elbow in his face and later another from Daniels.
''They were tougher. They were more physical. They were desperate,'' Ginobili said. ''That made them play with more determination.''
Notes: Allen had made 45 straight free throws until missing a technical foul shot midway through the second period. ... The Spurs are 15-1 all-time in series where they lead 2-0. ... Bowen, Allen's nemesis in recent seasons, was roundly booed during introductions. Brent Barry, who played five seasons in Seattle from 1999-2004, got a big cheer. ... Sonics F Reggie Evans left in the third with a bruised back, and Lewis left with 3 1/2 minutes remaining with a sprained big toe on his left foot.
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