Shaquille O'Neal playfully ended his feud with Hack-a-Shaq enthusiast and cancer survivor Don Nelson, then defused the strategy by sinking 11 of 15 free throws to lead the Los Angeles Lakers past the Dallas Mavericks, 119-109, Tuesday night.
O'Neal had 29 points and 11 rebounds and Kobe Bryant, who didn't make a field goal the first quarter and a half, added 19 points and seven assists as the Lakers spoiled Nelson's return from prostate cancer surgery.
"When Shaq makes his free throws like that, then the Hack-a-Shaq goes right out the window," said Nelson.
Nelson celebrated his comeback from a 52-day, 21-game absence in his typical, lighthearted style: Prior to tip-off, he wore a red foam ball on his nose so he'd look like "a clown," which is what O'Neal called him the last time the teams met.
O'Neal was upset then because Dallas sent him to the foul line 20 times. He and Nelson had since made up and O'Neal was even in on the pregame joke. The Lakers center actually took the toy off Nelson's nose and placed it on his own.
"I knew he wouldn't forget my comments," said O'Neal. "The reality of the situation is that I'm glad he's back from his cancer."
The Mavericks fed off the excitement of that stunt to take an early 10-point lead. Their up-tempo attack limited O'Neal and he didn't take a free throw in the first quarter.
But O'Neal's presence grew and Bryant, whose first point was Los Angeles' 40th, eventually kicked in, too. He scored 10 points in the third quarter as the Lakers' lead peaked at 18.
O'Neal took his fair share of abuse from the Mavericks. He had to do a cartwheel to save himself from injury following one foul by Christian Laettner in the fourth quarter.
But O'Neal had the last laugh as he sank five straight free throws in the second period and 6 of 8 in the second half.
Heat loses the Hardaway
NEW YORK -- Tim Hardaway made a quick exit, leaping over the scorer's table, running through the tunnel and slamming a door on his way to the locker room.
It was so quick, in fact, that there was barely any time for the fans to heckle him -- although Chris Childs took care of that later.
Hardaway tried to win a Knicks-Heat game all by himself Tuesday night, but he missed his final two shots -- both from three-point range, one of which was an airball -- to allow New York to escape with a 76-74 victory over Miami in another close contest between the archrivals.
"You know Tim. He's always running his mouth. It's just due that he shot two airballs," Childs said. "We've been going at it for years, I didn't say anything to him, but he started running his mouth. Sometimes your mouth gets you in trouble."
In this case, it was Hardaway's abandonment of the offense that got him into trouble.
After Eddie Jones stole the ball from Latrell Sprewell with 15 seconds left, Hardaway rushed a three-point attempt that missed badly. It was his second airball of the night from three-point range.
"It was designed to go to somebody, and I was going to surprise the guy and shoot a 3 -- but I shot an airball," Hardaway said.
Charlie Ward was fouled with 3.3 seconds left and made one of two from the line, giving the Heat another chance with a two-point deficit.
Hardaway attempted another three-pointer just before the buzzer, and the shot bounced hard off the rim as time expired.
"Point-blank shot, I should have made it," said Hardaway, who made it inside Miami's locker room within 20 seconds of the final buzzer.
"I was just disgusted with missing the shot, that's all," he said of his hasty retreat.
Around the rim
Ray Allen scored 17 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter of the Bucks' 101-92 victory over the Bulls. But the game was marred by an ugly scuffle between Milwaukee's Glenn Robinson and Chicago forward Ron Artest in the third quarter. . . . Shawn Marion scored 28 points as the Suns beat Orlando, 110-104, snapping the Magic's nine-game winning streak. Orlando's Tracy McGrady had a career-high 44 points. . . . Maurice Taylor scored 23 points and Steve Francis had 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists as the Rockets beat the Celtics, 101-84. . . . Vince Carter scored 33 points and Mark Jackson moved passed Isiah Thomas into fourth place on the NBA career assist list as the Raptors beat the Warriors, 113-102. Jackson had 12 assists, raising his career total to 9,065. . . . Michael Dickerson scored nine of his 23 points during a decisive third-quarter run as the Grizzlies extended their franchise-record winning streak to five games with a 116-104 victory over the Wizards. . . . Rasheed Wallace scored a career-best 42 points to power the Blazers to a 104-94 victory over the Nuggets. . . . Jason Williams had 22 points and six assists as the Kings, still without the injured Chris Webber, snapped a 10-game losing streak against the Hawks with a 94-80 win. . . . Guy Rodgers, a four-time NBA All-Star and an All-American at Temple, died of an apparent heart attack at 65.