Hot Howard, Magic Visit Heat
Posted Nov 24 2006 10:00AM
NBA.com Daily Confidential
AmericanAirlines Arena has been one of the toughest venues for opponents to play since Shaquille O'Neal joined the Miami Heat two seasons ago. With O'Neal out of the lineup, though, the Heat are struggling to win at home.
Miami looks to avoid losing four straight games at AmericanAirlines Arena for the first time in more than three years Friday when it hosts the Orlando Magic.
Before last Friday's 100-76 home loss to New York, the Heat (4-7) announced O'Neal would be out at least one month after undergoing surgery to repair torn knee cartilage.
The defending NBA champions have gone 1-3 without O'Neal, and lost their second straight after a 106-86 defeat to San Antonio on Wednesday.
``Even though we are not at full strength, we are not performing to the best of our abilities,'' said Dwyane Wade, who scored a team-high 18 points against the Spurs.
Miami was outrebounded 43-34 on Wednesday, and has had trouble scoring without its 13-time All-Star center.
The Heat are being outscored by an average of 13.5 points without O'Neal, and shooting just 38.3 percent in those games.
``We just don't have any respect for winning,'' said Udonis Haslem, who has scored 13 points on 5-of-17 shooting (29.4 percent) in his last two games combined.
O'Neal was traded to Miami before the 2004 season, and the Heat had the third-best home record in the NBA over the last two seasons, going 66-16 in that span.
Miami is 2-4 at AmericanAirlines Arena this season, and has lost by an average of 17.7 points during its current three-game home losing streak. The Heat - who have won five of their last six at home against the Magic - have not lost four straight home games since dropping six in a row from March 4-18, 2003.
While Miami is struggling without its powerful big man, Orlando (8-4) is thriving behind the play of center Dwight Howard.
Howard finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds in the Magic's 96-91 win Wednesday over Indiana as Orlando won for the fifth time in its last six games.
Howard had 12 points and nine boards at halftime, and a quiet second half kept him from becoming the first player in 15 years to record three straight 20-point, 20-rebound games.
``We've got a lot more games to play,'' the 20-year-old Howard said. ``If I keep playing hard, working hard in practice, good things will come.''
Howard leads the league with a 13.8 rebounding average and is fourth in field goal percentage at 60.5 percent. He averaged 15 points and 12 rebounds in four games against the Heat last season.
Point guard Jameer Nelson scored a team-high 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting Wednesday, and is connecting on 55.8 percent of his shots.
Orlando shot 49.3 percent against the Pacers, and is the second-best shooting team in the league at 49.4 percent.
The Magic beat the Heat 93-84 in their last meeting April 9, but have won just two of their last 12 games against them.
The two teams split their four games last season, with Wade averaging 30.5 points and shooting 52.6 percent in those games.
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