NBA.com Daily Confidential

With their All-Stars healthy again and playing well, the Miami Heat could be poised to make a run in the Eastern Conference.

The defending NBA champions look to continue their recent strong play and beat the Milwaukee Bucks for the second time in five days when the teams meet at the Bradley Center on Saturday.

Miami (21-25) is four games below .500, but is also just one-half game behind the New Jersey Nets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

The Heat have won their last two games - a 110-80 victory over the Bucks on Tuesday followed by a 92-89 win against Cleveland on Thursday - following a stretch of five losses in six games.

The health of the team's two All-Star starters may have Miami in its best shape of the season. Shaquille O'Neal is back in the lineup after missing most of the season due to knee surgery, and Dwyane Wade is averaging 32.4 points over the last five games after missing time earlier in the season with wrist and ankle ailments.

"There is a sense of urgency to get back on track,'' said O'Neal, who had 16 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes Thursday, his best numbers since November. "We have to get to .500 before the All-Star break.''

Wade led a comeback from a 12-point deficit with eight minutes remaining in regulation against Cleveland. He scored a club-record 24 points in the final quarter - one more than the entire Cavaliers team - to finish with 41 points.

Last year's NBA Finals MVP also set two more team records on Thursday: most free throws made in a game (23) and most turnovers (12).

He scored the Heat's final 14 points and hit two free throws with three seconds remaining to seal the victory.

"He's a great player, great unselfish player,'' O'Neal said of Wade. "We're going to ride him.''

Wade also scored 28 points on 12-of-17 shooting in Tuesday's win over the Bucks (18-29), as Miami shot a season-best 60.3 percent from the floor as a team.

The Heat lost their first meeting of the season with the Bucks 121-95 on Dec. 30, but have still won nine of the last 11 in the series.

While the Heat have their sights set on getting back to .500, the Bucks are trying to snap out of a horrible funk. Milwaukee lost to Detroit 96-86 on Friday, its 14th loss in 16 games.

The Bucks, who have been without star Michael Redd for 14 games due to a knee injury, have been outclassed in nearly every area during their current three-game losing streak. They've been outscored by 21.6 points per game during the skid while averaging 18.7 turnovers.

"We've got to bounce back,'' Milwaukee coach Terry Stotts said. "Michael Redd will be back, hopefully next week, and we've just got to get back to where we were in December.''

Andrew Bogut had 21 points and 13 rebounds against the Pistons for his first double-double in 10 games. He has 23 points and 10 rebounds in the two games against the Heat this season.


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