Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Now that the team’s 27-game winning streak is over, the Miami Heat are free to concentrate on the real goal of the season, the NBA championship. The Heat get back on the road to the title with a Friday night game against the New Orleans Hornets.
But the Heat have run into the proverbial Hornets nest whenever they play on the road against New Orleans. The Hornets have beaten the Heat the last six times the teams have played on the Hornets’ home court.
Still, the Heat can achieve something that will make a title run a lot easier. A win by the Heat or a loss by New York to Charlotte would allow the Heat to clinch the number one seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, guaranteeing home court advantage up to the NBA Finals.
Make no mistake; giving the Heat home court advantage in the playoffs may make the team unstoppable if it can keep up the current level of play and even elevate it further.
This year, Miami has put together a 32-3 record at home. The Heat are also 33-10 against teams in the Eastern Conference and 23-5 against teams from the Western Conference.
Miami (56-15) had its run of 27 consecutive wins snapped with a 101-97 defeat in Chicago on Wednesday but hardly seemed downtrodden. The Heat came closer than any other team to matching the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers’ NBA-record 33-game run.
“The streak wasn’t important to us. What’s important to us is winning the title. That’s what we work on. That’s what we’re here for,” center Chris Bosh said.
The Heat have earned No. 1 seeds twice in their history, in the 1998-99 lockout-shortened season and in 2004-05. They didn’t win an NBA title either time, and were eliminated by New York in the first round in 1999.
The Hornets are coming off a three-game winning streak that was ended by L.A. Clippers Wednesday night in a 105-91 loss. New Orleans trailed by two points entering the fourth quarter but was outscored 26-14 in those final 12 minutes. The Hornets didn’t help themselves by missing 10 of 14 3-point attempts and giving up 20 points off 12 turnovers.
Giving up 20 turnovers to the Miami Heat will do just about any team in because there’s not a team in the league that plays in transition better than the Heat with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James attacking the basket.
Dwyane Wade, who returned from a sore right knee Wednesday, had a team-best 26 points for the Heat on 9-of-12 shooting and is averaging 27.9 points on 51.8 percent shooting in his last eight games against New Orleans.
New Orleans and Miami tip off at 8 p.m. Friday night.
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