Utah (26-27) at Miami (22-32)

  • Game info: 7:30 pm EST Tue Feb 17, 2004
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Heading into the season, no one expected the Utah Jazz and Miami Heat to be in playoff contention after the All-Star break.

Both teams, however, are in that position as the unofficial second half of the season begins.

Pat Riley stepped down as Heat coach only four days before the season began, and Stan Van Gundy took over a team that wasn’t expected to make any noise after finishing at the bottom of the Atlantic Division last season at 25-57.

Miami lost its first seven games this season, but has since gone 22-25 to move into 10th place in the Eastern Conference. The Heat are just one game behind the Boston Celtics for the eighth and final playoff berth in the East.

Miami snapped a five-game losing streak before the break, beating the Orlando Magic 111-98 on the road Wednesday.

Dwyane Wade scored 27 points and Rafer Alston added a season-high 23 to lead five players in double figures.

“We needed this game,” Wade said. “Losing five straight games, we really needed this game and it was a good one to get on the road.”

Miami plays 12 of its next 15 games at home, where it is 14-10 this season.

“I feel a lot better than I did in the first half of the season,” Heat center Brian Grant said. “We still have a lot of battling to do. But I look at the other teams, they’ve got to do what we did in the first half—they’ve got to go out West.”

Utah saw John Stockton retire and Karl Malone sign with the Los Angeles Lakers shortly after last season ended, leaving it without the two players that defined the franchise for the last 16 years.

The Jazz, however, have been flirting with the .500 mark all season and are 4 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference.

Utah had a two-game winning streak snapped in its last contest before the break, falling 77-66 at home to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.

“We have a very young team, very ambitious—greedy to win,” said Jazz All-Star forward Andrei Kirilenko, who is averaging a team-high 16.3 points.

Utah has won six straight over Miami since an 87-80 home loss on Nov. 10, 2000.

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