- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 7, 2004

The buzz around the Miami Heat since they acquired Shaquille O’Neal during the summer has been about the big man. Last night in a heated game against the Washington Wizards, however, it was Eddie Jones who snatched away the Wizards’ chance for a 3-0 start.

Sort of an afterthought behind O’Neal and second-year stud Dwyane Wade, Jones was 6-for-6 from the field in the fourth quarter — including 4-for-4 from behind the 3-point line — as the Heat broke open a close game for a 118-106 victory in the Wizards’ home opener before 19,859 at MCI Center.

“He’s spotting up and taking 3s, and it’s like shooting ducks in a barrel,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “With the big man, there is a lot of confidence out there with the other guys.”

That confidence was reflected in the Heat’s 55.8 percent shooting for the game, particularly the 12-for-16 display they put on in the fourth quarter.

The Heat, who blew a 16-point first-half lead, closed with a 16-4 run after Washington’s Jarvis Hayes tied the game for the last time on a 3-pointer with 2:26 to play.

Of the Heat’s final 16 points, Jones was responsible for 12.

“Eddie Jones hit some big shots at the end,” said Larry Hughes, whose 26 points trailed only Gilbert Arenas’ 27 for the Wizards. “They made plays to win the game. But I still think we played pretty well.”

No question, especially considering the Wizards’ task. Although O’Neal did not have the type of wrecking ball game he can — he finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and two blocks — the Wizards were playing their third game without starting center Brendan Haywood.

Still minus the services of their beefiest bodies — Etan Thomas and Kwame Brown are both out with injuries — the Wizards, who also got 24 points and 13 rebounds from Antawn Jamison, were forced to go with Michael Ruffin at center.

“It will be good to get closer to full strength when Brendan returns,” Jordan said. “But without our big guys in the middle, our perimeter defenders are being asked to do so much.”

That included trying to slow Wade, and it didn’t work. He was in control against the Wizards, posting a career high in points with 37.

“Tonight he was on such a roll,” Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I think he had a pretty good night. We’re happy with that.”

With the loss, Washington failed to win its first three games of the season, something the team hasn’t accomplished since a 4-0 start in 1978.

Washington’s defense was invisible at the start, and as a result, the Heat made 60 percent of their shots in the first quarter. They took a 10-point lead after one quarter and extended it to 16 late in the second on Wade’s steal and layup with 35 seconds to play.

Trailing by 10 points late in the third after Wade’s free throw, the Wizards used a 14-6 run to pull even at 102-102 on a 3-pointer by Hayes (15 points, eight rebounds) with 2:26 to play.

But Jones gave the Heat the lead back for good on a driving layup. That started a 10-2 Heat run — and part of a larger 16-4 closing run — that eventually saw the Wizards lose Jamison to a sixth foul and ultimately lose the game.

Not disheartened, the Wizards sounded energized about going to Miami on Tuesday for a quick rematch.

“We’re ready,” Hughes said. “We came up a little short tonight. We played well enough to win the game. With Brendan coming back Tuesday night, that will help us a lot.”

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