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 4 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 last night to lead the Heat to a 102-95 victory over the host 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 tomorrow 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, 9 rebounds, and 6 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 8 turnovers, but Mourning's performance -- which included a couple of energetic goaltending calls -- was the most inspirational.
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."
SuperSonics 92, Spurs 91-- Ray Allen's 20 points and Vitaly Potapenko's big defensive stop were just enough to save Seattle.
Allen had an impact despite going scoreless in the final period and Potapenko forced Tim Duncan into a missed 4-footer at the final horn, lifting Seattle to a win over visiting San Antonio.
Reserve Antonio Daniels had 18 points and 8 rebounds, and Jerome James scored 15 points on 7-of-7 shooting from the floor, helping the Sonics pull to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.
Duncan scored 23 points with 11 rebounds, and his defense was as solid as ever -- 4 blocked shots -- on the day he was selected to the NBA's All-Defensive Team for the sixth straight year.
But it wasn't enough to carry the Spurs, who had won six straight playoff games.