Nets-Heat Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 05, 2012
Returning home to face the New Jersey Nets might be what the Miami Heat need to break out of a rare rough stretch. With Chris Bosh expected back, the Heat look to continue their recent success both at home and against the Nets on Tuesday night when they try to avoid matching a season high with a third straight loss. For the first time since a three-game skid Jan. 10-13, Miami (28-9) has lost consecutive games. LeBron James passed up a chance at the final shot in a 99-98 loss at Utah on Friday, then could not help the Heat stop a determined Kobe Bryant in Sunday's 93-83 defeat at Los Angeles. The Heat finished 1-2 on the trip without Bosh (18.4 points, 8.3 rebounds per game), who was attending his grandmother's funeral. The veteran forward is expected to return Tuesday as Miami tries to win 10 straight at home for the first time since a 14-game run Jan. 22-March 16, 2007. "We all know that Chris is a big part of our team,'' said James, who averaged 32.7 points and 11.3 rebounds on the trip. "We played hard and we gave everything we had (in the last two games). When you do that, you can - I don't want to say feel good - but you can be satisfied and just try to get better." With a full lineup Miami has an excellent chance to get back on track against New Jersey (12-26), which has averaged 86.3 points on 37.7 percent shooting while losing eight in a row to the Heat since a 96-88 home win March 20, 2009. Dwyane Wade was out nursing a foot injury when the Heat visited New Jersey on Jan. 7, but James had 32 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds in Miami's 101-90 win. Deron Williams, who had 10 points and 10 assists in that contest for New Jersey, is coming off a franchise-record 57-point performance in Sunday's 104-101 victory at Charlotte. Williams, whose previous career high was 42 for Utah against Oklahoma City on April 6, 2010, scored 40 in the second half and finished 16 of 29 from field Sunday while making all 21 of his free-throw attempts. His 57 points are the most in the NBA this season and broke the Nets record of 52, shared by Mike Newlin and Ray Williams. "You really don't pay attention to it,'' said Williams, who was held to 12 points in each of his previous two games. "It's just one of those games where you start feeling good and let it go.'' Williams has averaged 22.8 points and 10.0 assists while shooting 57.1 percent from the field in his last four games at Miami. New Jersey, which has won consecutive games only once this season, is 4-3 since a season-high eight-game losing streak. However, the Nets have dropped five straight at Miami and will be without starting center Brook Lopez for three weeks after he rolled his right ankle Sunday. Lopez, who also missed the first 33 games of the season with a fractured foot, averaged 19.2 points in five contests before getting hurt again. "It's a tough situation for him, especially coming back from the foot situation,'' coach Avery Johnson said. New Jersey has won four of five on the road to improve to 9-13 there.
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