The Miami Heat have had little trouble handling the Charlotte Bobcats.

The streaking Heat hope to continue that trend while improving their position in the Eastern Conference when they host the Bobcats on Sunday in the opener of a home-and-home set.

Miami (42-34) is 9-1 in this series since the Bobcats debuted in the 2004-05 season. The Heat have won the last seven meetings, including both this season, and all five matchups in Miami. Charlotte's only win in the series came on March 26, 2005.

Miami has followed a 3-5 stretch by winning three in a row to take control of the Southeast Division over a second-place Washington team which will be without star Gilbert Arenas for the rest of the season. The Heat also have moved within one game of Toronto for third place in the East standings.

The defending NBA champions clinched a playoff berth with an overtime win at Cleveland on Thursday.

While Miami is playing well and has history on its side against the Bobcats, it likely won't take a casual approach into Sunday's contest after scraping by in an 88-85 win over the lowly Boston Celtics on Friday.

Shaquille O'Neal had 22 points and 11 rebounds as the Heat won despite going more than 7 minutes of the fourth quarter without scoring and blowing a 14-point lead.

"We're very fortunate to dodge a bullet tonight," said Miami coach Pat Riley, whose team plays five of its final six games against teams with losing records. "Yeah, this is what you'd call sort of a trap game. ... I was just hoping we could get out, do what we have to do, but sometimes these things happen."

The Heat might have to put forth a better effort against the Bobcats (30-47), who have won four of six.

O'Neal had 22 points in the Heat's 113-93 home win over the Bobcats on Feb. 5 in the teams' most recent meeting and his only game against Charlotte this season. The All-Star center, averaging 17.3 points and 7.4 rebounds this season, has averaged 20.3 points and 9.8 boards in his last four games.

He's helped Miami go 16-7 since Dwyane Wade has been sidelined with a dislocated left shoulder. Wade worked out before Friday's game to get in shape for the playoffs, though it's possible he could return before the end of the regular season.

Charlotte helped Miami's cause in the division race by sweeping a home-and-home series with Washington earlier this week, but missed a chance to win three in a row with a 112-102 home loss to Indiana on Friday.

Gerald Wallace had 29 points and nine rebounds, but Charlotte was outscored 61-47 in the second half and allowed Indiana to shoot 54.8 percent for the game.

"We had a 10-point lead," Wallace said. "We were in a position to take control of the game. This was a game we should have won and could have won. We blew it."

Wallace is averaging 30.0 points and 11.7 rebounds over the past three games while shooting 60 percent from the field.

Rookie Adam Morrison left Friday's game with a sprained tendon in his left knee, but is expected to play Sunday. Morrison, who averages 11.9 points, matched his second-highest scoring game of the season with 27 points in a 102-93 loss to the Heat on Nov. 25.

The teams will meet again Tuesday in Charlotte.


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