7:00 PM ET, January 26, 2009
Verizon Center, Washington, DC
He also scored 29 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked three shots.
Of course, a 36-year-old center playing back-to-back games at the end of a long road trip isn't much of a problem when the opponent is the new worst team in basketball.
O'Neal and the Phoenix Suns wrapped up a six-game East Coast swing Monday night with a 103-87 win over the Washington Wizards, who suffered the indignity of falling behind the Oklahoma City Thunder to take sole possession of the NBA cellar.
"This is a game of men, and we backed down tonight," Wizards co-captain Antawn Jamison said. "We didn't take the challenge that we preached before the game. Shaq senses that he's going to take advantage of that, and he sensed that tonight. He was more dominant, more physical, he could have pretty much what he wanted, took his time. He had fun tonight."
O'Neal finished 10-for-14 from the field and 9-for-10 from the free-throw line for the Suns, who salvaged their trip by winning the last two games to finish 3-3. O'Neal had 19 points and 11 rebounds in 39 minutes in Sunday night's 104-99 victory over Atlanta.
The Suns outscored the Wizards by 24 points when O'Neal was in the game. He went 4-for-4 from the field in the fourth quarter, when Phoenix shot 68 percent and outscored Washington 28-14 to pull away.
"I feel like I can play three or four more years," O'Neal said. "I've got a new medical staff that does stuff that I haven't really had before. I'm moving left, I'm moving right, I'm running, I'm jumping, I'm dunking, I'm getting up and hanging on the rim and getting techs, and I haven't felt this good in about two years."
O'Neal has been rested on the back end of some back-to-backs this season, but there was no need against a team that doesn't have a big body to bang him around. With natural power forward Blatche and rookie JaVale McGee manning the paint, the Wizards had little chance.
"There's been a lot of talk that 'He hasn't been in the greatest of shape,' but my style is my style," O'Neal said. "I always come in at 60 and I end up at 100. There's a lot of guys that try to come in at 100 and can't maintain 100. My style is always going to be my style."
Amare Stoudemire added 22 points and 15 rebounds, Leandro Barbosa scored 23 points and Steve Nash had 14 points and 15 assists for the Suns, whose 53-38 rebounding advantage helped overcome their 17 turnovers.
Caron Butler scored 28 points and Jamison had 27 points and 13 rebounds for the Wizards, but they didn't get much help as Washington lost for the 10th time in 12 games. The rest of the team scored 32 points on 17-for-41 shooting.
"I can't ask the two forwards to do more than they do," Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott said. "In the fourth quarter, they all load up against them. Somebody else has got to drive the ball to the basket."
Neither team had a double-digit lead until the fourth quarter, when O'Neal's layups against double teams accounted for the first and last baskets in a 12-4 run that gave the Suns an 89-79 lead with five minutes to play.
O'Neal literally threw his weight around in the game's final minutes. He pushed Blatche to the court along the baseline with 4:11 to play and was called for a foul, while Blatche lay on the floor with a left knee injury and had to leave the game. With 1:53 left, O'Neal threw down a defiant one-handed dunk that gave the Suns a 12-point lead.
Blatche said his knee "buckled and came back in place" and that X-rays were negative.
"It's real sore," Blatche said. "I thought it was something serious. It should be fine. All I know is he hit me, and I went flying."
O'Neal's first-half adventures included the technical for hanging on the rim after a dunk and the kiss for Butler after tying up the Wizards forward on a drive to the basket. Butler smiled good-naturedly -- then got the final laugh as he won the subsequent jump ball.
O'Neal ended the game five points shy of catching Hakeem Olajuwon for seventh place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.
"That's my idol. For me as a young, former juvenile delinquent who can't shoot free throws, who can't shoot jumpers, it's a pretty big accomplishment," O'Neal said. "When it's all said and done for me, I would like to have more than four [rings] and I'd like to be in that top five in scoring, rebounding and blocks. As a dad, right now my kids don't even talk about me. They talk about the Kobe and LeBron, and I could say, 'Look at what your daddy did.'"
DeShawn Stevenson, sidelined since Dec. 30 with a back injury, will return "maybe by this weekend," according to Tapscott. ... The Wizards went 6-for-20 from the field in the fourth quarter.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||40-84 (.476)||32-81 (.395)|
|3PM-3PA||6-17 (.353)||4-11 (.364)|
|FTM-FTA||17-19 (.895)||19-24 (.792)|
|Fast Break Points||12||17|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||20 (1/0)||15 (0/0)|