MIAMI – Shaq is back, helping the Miami Heat shake their slump.

Playing for the first time since the second game of the season, O’Neal sank one of two free throws with a second left in regulation to force an overtime, and Miami ended a four-game losing streak by beating Washington 104-101 Sunday night.

Dwyane Wade scored a season-high 41 points, including the final six for the Heat, and added 10 rebounds and eight assists. But it was O’Neal who hit the shot that kept Miami in the game.

O’Neal finished 6-for-16 at the line, not including two misses negated by lane violations. Coming off the bench in his first action since a sprained right ankle sidelined him Nov. 3, O’Neal finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds, four in overtime. He fouled out with 1:33 left after playing 22 minutes.

Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins reached season highs in scoring off the bench for Washington. Butler had 28 points and Atkins 26.

Teammate Gilbert Arenas added 24 but missed 19 of 24 shots.

The Wizards, who blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead Saturday night to Chicago, lost their third game in a row.

Miami’s Gary Payton had 21 points and seven rebounds, both season highs.

The Heat beat the Wizards for the ninth time in a row. Washington’s last win in the series came on April 11, 2003.

The Wizards led 95-94 with 7 seconds left in the fourth quarter, but the Heat won a jump ball at their end. Wade passed inside to O’Neal, who was immediately fouled. His first attempt rattled out, but he swished the second.

O’Neal again went 1-for-2 at the line to put Miami ahead in overtime.

His lone dunk – a backboard rattler – made it 98-95.

After Atkins sank a 3-pointer, Wade’s basket with 2 minutes left put Miami ahead to stay, 100-98.

Wade topped 30 for the third game in a row, but in the final 90 seconds of regulation he committed an offensive foul and missed three shots, including one that was blocked.

The game was billed as a tribute to the 70s, with both teams in throwback uniforms. The Heat wore black, pink and orange outfits styled after the Miami Floridians of the ABA, while Washington wore Baltimore Bullets-style uniforms.

Reviews of the apparel were mixed, but some of the basketball was unsightly. Washington shot 39 percent and still led for much of the game. When Atkins scored 11 points in a 3-minute span to help the Wizards take a 46-38 lead, there were scattered boos from the crowd.

O’Neal entered with 5:55 left in the first quarter to an enthusiastic but brief ovation. He scored his first point less than 2 minutes later, making one of two free throws.

His first field goal, late in the third quarter, put Miami ahead 66-60. Teammate Gerald Fitch swished a 40-footer at the buzzer to end the quarter for a 77-72 lead.

The Heat went 9-9 during the five weeks O’Neal was sidelined. They’re 2-1 with him.

Notes: The Heat improved to 7-0 at home when leading after one quarter. … O’Neal came off the bench for the first time since Nov. 22, 2002, for the Los Angeles Lakers against Chicago. … Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said transition defense has been his biggest disappointment through the first 20 games.

AP-ES-12-11-05 2123EST


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