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Heat's O'Neal Sidelined Until Playoffs Begin This Weekend

Wednesday, April 20, 2005; Page D09

Shaquille O'Neal's bruised right thigh will keep him out of the Heat's final two regular season games, but the team expects him to be ready when it opens the playoffs Sunday.

Miami placed O'Neal on the injured list yesterday before the team's 99-80 win over Charlotte, and activated rookie Dorell Wright.

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"If this was a playoff game, I could have played," O'Neal said. "I plan to be there Sunday."

The decision to rest the all-star center wasn't unexpected since Miami, which wrapped up the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs two weeks ago, has nothing to gain standings-wise from the season's final regular season games.

"I'm all right. I'm getting better. Just taking it day by day," O'Neal said. "I've done everything legal to try to make this better."

O'Neal said he's still experiencing some swelling in the leg, but accompanied the Heat on its flight to Orlando last night. The Heat will open the best-of-seven quarterfinals at home against Cleveland, Philadelphia or New Jersey.

"We know what he's going to do when playoff time comes," Heat G Dwyane Wade said. "He's going to be the Shaq no one in Miami has seen yet. We're not worried about that at all."

APPLICATION CHANGE: The Raptors withdrew their application to host the 2008 All-Star Game and will submit an application to host the event in 2011. The team cited a timing conflict involving the 2008 game and the construction schedule for Maple Leaf Square, which is expected to be completed in 2009.

-- From News Services

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