The Miami Heat appear to have found their form as they seek home-court advantage in the playoffs. There's little margin for error, however, with a number of teams also in the middle of the pack surging toward the postseason.
Miami seeks its 15th win in 21 games Friday night at Orlando in the first of a home-and-home set.
Dwyane Wade's 21 points led the Heat (46-32) in a 106-98 victory against Chicago on Thursday, pulling them into a tie with Boston for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Charlotte is one game back of those teams, while Atlanta holds a one-half game edge for the third spot as the clubs jockey for playoff positioning.
The Heat outscored the Bulls 66-52 in the second half.
"At this time of year, you have to use certain situations to try to prepare us because we've never been there together as a team," Wade said. "This was one of those situations."
Miami isn't the only team in the scrum playing well. Charlotte's 21-7 record since Feb. 6 leads the East, while Atlanta has won 16 of 21 and Boston seven of nine.
Orlando (33-45) is out of the playoff picture, though its 108-104 loss to Detroit on Wednesday was only its second in six games. The Magic surrendered 35 fourth-quarter points, their third-most this season.
"Yes, it's frustrating, but we didn't play bad at all tonight," Evan Fournier said. "Detroit is a team that is fighting for a playoff spot. They are playing good ball."
Fournier has averaged 20.0 points in the last four games, helping Orlando average 116.2 on 53.0 percent shooting during a 4-2 stretch. The Magic averaged 100.8 points on 44.8 percent shooting previously.
Miami is enjoying a longer run of offensive success, averaging 109.0 points while shooting 50.1 percent in its last 19 contests. The Heat are also clamping down defensively, holding their last four opponents to 43.0 percent shooting.
Keeping Orlando's Nikola Vucevic in check figures to be crucial. The fifth-year center is averaging 21.5 points on 63.9 percent shooting off the bench in four games since missing 13 with a strained groin.
Miami, which hosts Orlando on Sunday, will be aiming for its third sweep of the Magic in four years and fifth all-time after winning 108-101 on Dec. 26 and 108-97 on March 25. Goran Dragic, who grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds Thursday, scored 22 in each of the first two meetings, shooting 18 for 29 from the field.
Free-throw shooting was costly for the Magic in both matchups as they were 25 for 41 from the charity stripe.
Hassan Whiteside will hope to draw on his previous success against Orlando after struggling of late. He's 20 for 42 from the floor in his last four games, but 28 for 43 (65.1 percent) in his career versus the Magic.
Wade, conversely, is 23 for 61 (37.7) percent in his last four meetings with Orlando.
Miami has dropped four of six on the road, while Orlando, 21-18 at home, has clinched its first winning record at Amway Center in four years.