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MIAMI (CBSSports) – The Miami Heat have two wins in their three games without LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, with big thanks to one of the team’s reserves.
With the status of both James and Wade unclear for Saturday’s home game against Philadelphia, the Heat may again need big contributions from Mike Miller to get a 15th straight regular-season win over the 76ers.
Having already clinched first place in the Eastern Conference, Miami (59-16) can afford to rest James, who is dealing with a tight right hamstring, as well as Wade, who has multiple right leg injuries. Both were listed by the team as probable starters for Friday in Charlotte but wound up sitting along with Ray Allen, who suffered a right ankle injury in Tuesday’s loss to New York.
Despite being without the combined 59.0 points per game from those three, the Heat beat the Bobcats 89-79, getting a season-high 26 points from Miller.
Miller hit 7 of 11 3-pointers, and is averaging 18.7 points in the last three games – 14.5 better than his season average.
“He is a big-time weapon that we have,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of Miller, a career 40.4 percent shooter from long distance. “He has absolutely bought into the sacrifice. You know the long season of an 82-game season, this is probably the healthiest he has ever been at this time of year and you see his value. He can strike it hot at any moment and go on a string of four, five, or six in a row.”
The Heat also got 18 points from Chris Bosh and 14 from Rashard Lewis. Mario Chalmers had six points and seven assists after missing three games with a sprained ankle.
Miami has outscored the 76ers by an average of 12.4 points in the season’s first three meetings, and hasn’t lost in the regular season in the series since March 15, 2009.
Philadelphia defeated Atlanta 101-90 on Friday for its fifth victory in seven games, but the late-season surge might be coming too late. The 76ers (31-44) are five games back of Milwaukee for eighth place in the East with seven to play, but they’re not giving up.
They’re 3-2 on the road since March 24 after losing their previous 15 away from Philadelphia.
“These games are important for us,” coach Doug Collins said. “I’ve got young players. Little things that you keep teaching, that’s why we’re going to coach and teach and play these games to the finish.”
Collins has seen miserable shooting performances from leading scorer Jrue Holiday (18.1 ppg) over the last two games, as he’s gone a combined 5 of 38 (13.2 percent) for 14 points against the Bobcats and Hawks.
Evan Turner has assumed the primary scoring load recently, averaging 20.8 points over the last four contests.
Spencer Hawes has also been solid inside for Philadelphia lately, averaging a double-double over his last 13 games with 16.0 points and 10.3 rebounds. Hawes averaged 10.1 points and 6.6 rebounds in his previous 62 games.
Thaddeus Young totaled 49 points on 23-of-35 shooting with 18 rebounds in his two games against Miami this season.
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