Heat-Kings Preview

It might be surprising to learn where the two-time defending

champion Miami Heat have suffered most of their road losses this

season.

What isn’t all that shocking is that the absence of Dwyane Wade

played a role in half of those setbacks.

After winning the first of a 14-game stretch that features 11

away from home, the Heat continue a four-game road swing Friday

night against the Sacramento Kings.

The Heat (22-6) have gone 8-4 outside Miami, but the only loss

that came against a top-tier team was a 90-84 defeat at Indiana on

Dec. 10. The others have come to clubs which are all at least five

games under .500 – Philadelphia, Brooklyn and Chicago.

Coach Erik Spoelstra has been taking the opportunity to rest

Wade against lesser competition, but his teammates are not always

taking care of business when he sits.

Wade, hampered by knee trouble all season, was sidelined for the

losses against the 76ers and Bulls. He was also on the bench when

Miami suffered the most recent of its only two home losses Dec. 3

against Detroit.

Whether Wade suits up in Sacramento remains to be seen. Resting

the All-Star may seem logical given the matchup opens a

back-to-back that concludes Saturday against Portland – one of the

Western Conference’s top teams that is leading the league with

108.4 points per game.

In addition, Miami has beaten the Kings by an average of 18.8

points in six meetings since LeBron James joined the team before

the 2010-11 season. The Heat have won 10 in a row against

Sacramento and 18 of 19 dating to March 6, 2004.

Plus, Miami has won 19 straight over West opponents, one away

from the longest regular-season streak by an East team. Boston won

20 straight over the West during a nine-month span of 1973.

Wade, meanwhile, looked strong on Christmas, scoring 23 points

on 11-of-17 shooting and logging a season high with nearly 39

minutes in a 101-95 road win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Chris Bosh also scored 23 and James added 19 to help Miami push

its overall win streak to six games.

“We’re not better than we were last year, but it’s only

December,” James said. “I believe we can be better than the team

that won in June. This is a process. We don’t want to play

championship ball right now.”

James has won his last 13 games against the Kings after a

122-103 home victory last Friday. He had 18 points on 8-of-11

shooting, and Bosh had arguably his best game of the season with 25

points and eight rebounds while shooting 11 for 16.

Sacramento (8-19) has dropped six of eight and now faces three

straight imposing matchups, hosting Miami before road games at San

Antonio and Houston.

The Kings got lit up by one of their former players in their

most recent game, a 113-100 loss to New Orleans on Monday. Former

NBA Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans had a season-high 25 points and

added 12 assists for the Pelicans.

“First of all, we didn’t get stops,” said Isaiah Thomas, who had

21 points. “Secondly, we didn’t dial in on that end of the floor

and (Evans) made every play. He scored, he passed, and he did what

he wanted.”

DeMarcus Cousins had 24 points and 14 rebounds, but Rudy Gay

struggled through a 2-for-12 night and scored 11 while committing

six of the Kings’ 22 turnovers.