The Miami Heat own the Eastern Conference’s best record, but are still looking to shore up one glaring weakness – rebounding.
They hope a new face can help make an impact beginning Wednesday night as they try to continue their dominance over the visiting Toronto Raptors.
The Heat (26-12) haven’t played since Thursday when they capped a 10-day, six-game road trip with a 99-90 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. They started the trek with losses to Indiana and Portland but closed by winning three of four.
“It was good for our team to kind of get a rest,” said Dwyane Wade, whose scoring average of 20.1 ranks 10th. “We are one of the oldest teams in the league. (It’s good) for guys to kind of mentally and physically get away from the grind.”
The Heat, winners of 16 of 19 at home, didn’t get any younger with Sunday’s signing of 34-year-old Chris Andersen to a 10-day contract, but hope the move can improve a club that averages a league-worst 38.8 rebounds.
Andersen, who hasn’t appeared in a game since last March with Denver, never played more than 22 minutes per game in his career, but averages 14.0 rebounds and 4.3 blocked shots per 48 minutes.
“Typically, you’re not able to get a player of his caliber at this time of year,” Erik Spoelstra said. “But three years ago he was the best in the game coming off the bench at his position, as a shot-blocker and a rebounder. We’ve always liked him.”
Miami has made up for its rebounding deficiencies by shooting 48.8 percent from the floor – a franchise-best mark – while also being the NBA’s third-most accurate 3-point shooting team (38.7 percent).
LeBron James is shooting 55.0 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from beyond the arc, both career bests. He remains one of two players in the league, along with Russell Westbrook, in the top 10 in both scoring (26.3) and assists (7.0)
“We closed out the trip the right way, and we want to build from it,” said James, who had 39 points and eight assists against the Lakers.
The Raptors snapped a four-game losing streak with a 108-103 win against the Lakers on Sunday as Jose Calderon scored 22 and Landry Fields added a season-high 18. Toronto (15-26) had won 10 of 13 before the skid, which included blown leads of 19 and 20 points in losses to Philadelphia and Milwaukee.
“It’s still tough to put it all the way behind us because if we had won the games we were supposed to, it would be a totally different situation,” said DeMar DeRozan, who leads the team in scoring (17.3) and averaged 21.7 in three losses to Miami last season.
The Heat have won eight straight in the series by an average of 12.2 points, and the last six meetings in Miami. James is averaging 32.0 points in his last three home games against the Raptors.
Toronto is also still trying to overcome the losses of Andrea Bargnani (16.0 ppg) and Jonas Valanciunas (7.8 ppg). Bargnani has been out since Dec. 12 with a sore right elbow, though coach Dwane Casey said he’s resumed working with a basketball. Valanciunas, who has missed 13 games with a broken finger on his right hand, is lifting weights.