James looks to get Heat back on winning track

BY foxsports • January 17, 2012

Tune into Sun Sports at 7 p.m. to watch the Miami Heat take on the San Antonio Spurs. NBA Heat territory.

The upcoming schedule this week was already going to be a challenge for the Miami Heat.

Playing it without injured star guard Dwyane Wade would make it significantly tougher.

With Wade out for at least this game, the struggling Heat open a five-game homestand Tuesday night against the San Antonio Spurs, who are again trying to carry their home success to the road.

Wade has already missed three games due to a previous foot injury and is averaging just 19.6 points - well off his 2010-11 pace of 25.5 per game. That was before he sprained his right ankle in the fourth quarter of Friday's 117-104 loss at Denver, Miami's third consecutive defeat to close a five-game trip.

Wade did not practice with the Heat (8-4) on Sunday, and while coach Erik Spoelstra ruled him out for this game Tuesday morning and did not offer a timetable for Wade's return, forward Chris Bosh would prefer his teammate take his time to get back to 100 percent.

"He needs to get healthy," said Bosh of Wade, who turns 30 on Tuesday. "That's the most important thing. He's been pushing it. He's been giving us everything he has. And unfortunately in the last game, he turned his ankle. But sometimes things happen. He probably needed to sit down and rest in the first place.

"He needs to just chill out right now, get better and we'll hold it down until he can come back," Bosh added.

Bosh is averaging 19.2 points overall, but has scored 16.3 per game on 41.7 percent shooting his last four contests. That has left LeBron James shouldering the offensive burden - something he has done by averaging 29.0 points in those four games - but it has not gotten the Heat back to winning.

Things likely won't get much easier with the Los Angeles Lakers and Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia visiting after the Spurs.

"I've got to step it up even more offensively and defensively," James said. "Revert back to some of the ways back in Cleveland, when I knew I for the most part had to be the No. 1 option offensively."

Even without injured guard Manu Ginobili, San Antonio (9-4) has always found enough offense at home. On Sunday night, Tim Duncan picked up the slack with a season-high 24 points and 11 rebounds in 31 efficient minutes during a 102-91 victory over Phoenix as the Spurs improved to 9-0 at home.

For Duncan, the offseason work on his jumper paid dividends as he made 10 of 14 from the field.

"Especially this summer, I worked on it a lot trying to extend my range a little bit," said Duncan, who is shooting a career-low 47.3 percent. "Be a little more consistent. It's been up and down so far but great tonight."

Defensively, the Spurs appear to have found a groove. They've limited opponents to 89.7 points per game and 41.7 percent shooting during their three-game winning streak after yielding an average of 110.3 points on 53.1 percent shooting in the previous three, a 1-2 stretch.

"It's been up and down. We're not at the consistency where we need to be at," Duncan admitted. "All in all we're getting there. It's a work in progress. We know it's a long season. We use the season to get where we want to be. But defensively we have to be a lot better."

That's certainly true on the road, where the Spurs have gone 0-4 and allowed 106.3 points per game on 52.5 percent shooting. San Antonio has allowed each opponent to shoot 50.6 percent or better and score at least 105 points.

The home team won by 30 in each meeting between these teams last season, with the Heat's 110-80 victory ending San Antonio's three-game win streak in Miami.


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