The Miami Heat used to dominate the young Charlotte Bobcats franchise. Lately, however, Charlotte has had the upper hand against the team that won the NBA championship two seasons ago.
The Bobcats go for their fifth straight win over the Heat - and their third victory against them this season - when the Southeast Division rivals square off in Miami on Tuesday.
After the Bobcats (6-7) began play in 2004, the Heat (3-10) took advantage of the expansion club, winning nine of the first 10 meetings by an average of 11.6 points.
The Bobcats, though, have exacted some revenge in winning their last four games against the Heat. This season, Charlotte earned a 90-88 win in Miami on Nov. 4, then beat the Heat 91-76 at home Nov. 13.
The Bobcats' win at AmericanAirlines Arena was part of the Heat's longest home losing streak to start a season since 1988-89. After dropping its first five games on its home court, Miami finally got a win there by beating Houston 98-91 on Friday.
The Heat couldn't follow that up with another victory Saturday, when they lost 120-99 at Orlando to fall to 0-4 against Southeast opponents this season.
"I thought maybe we got caught up a little bit too much in their game tonight. That's not ours," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "I think some of our offense created a lot of their offense, either turnovers and quick shots, or something like that. We'll have to make an adjustment there. We're not happy with the result."
One positive that came from the loss, however, was the performance of Dwyane Wade. Playing his sixth game this season after offseason knee and shoulder surgeries, Wade had a season-high 32 points and added six assists and six rebounds.
Riley, though, is cautious about declaring his All-Star guard 100 percent.
"He's not all the way back by any stretch of the imagination," Riley said. "He's still continuing to get his legs under him, his timing, you know the whole thing. It's going to take some time."
The Bobcats will likely have their own star return Tuesday. Gerald Wallace, the team's leading scorer at 18.7 points per game, has been cleared to play after missing Charlotte's last game with a strained right calf.
The Bobcats could have used Wallace on Saturday, when a late turnover cost them a win over Boston. Charlotte led by two with 4.7 seconds left when Bobcats guard Jason Richardson had his inbounds pass knocked away. The Celtics' Paul Pierce recovered the loose ball and passed it to Ray Allen, who made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the Bobcats to a 96-95 loss - their third straight defeat.
Despite the stunning result, Bobcats coach Sam Vincent is encouraged that his team was seconds away from beating one of the league's best teams despite playing without Wallace.
"We feel like tonight we made some big strides," Vincent said. "We played against a very tough team, a team with three All-Stars. We just didn't capitalize at the end."
Charlotte hopes to bounce back with another win against Miami, which shot just 38.5 percent from the field in the Bobcats' Nov. 13 win.
After that game, Riley said, "I guarantee you I should suit up. I'd play better than some of them right now. I guarantee it. I swear to God. With an old hip and 62 years old and I can't see, I'll play better than some of my guys tonight."
Heat center Shaquille O'Neal, who called that loss "very, very embarrassing," has averaged 17.0 points and 7.5 rebounds against the Bobcats this season.
Richardson, meanwhile, has averaged 23.5 points and shot 62.5 percent (10-for-16) from 3-point range in the two games against Miami.
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