Dallas (44-27) at Miami (34-37)

Fair Currently: Miami, FL
Temp: 81° F
  • Game info: 8:00 pm EST Fri Mar 26, 2004
  • TV: ESPN, WBFS
Preview | Box Score | Recap

While the Miami Heat are climbing the Eastern Conference playoff ladder, the Dallas Mavericks are steadily falling in the West.

The resurgent Heat seek their longest winning streak in nearly four years as they host the stumbling Mavericks.

Miami would not have made the playoffs had the season ended three weeks ago, but has since jumped to sixth place in the East by winning six straight and nine of 10. The Heat stand one game behind Milwaukee for fifth, and three games ahead of ninth-place Boston.

The top eight teams in each conference qualify for the postseason.

“I would like to keep this streak going,” Heat guard Eddie Jones said. “It is a great thing that we have such a nice cushion and do things like that. We have to give all praise to the fact we are playing good defense. We will not stop working defensively.”

Jones’ team has given up an average of 82 points over the last six games. A victory Friday would give the Heat their longest winning streak since a seven-game run from March 28-April 9, 2000.

Defense has been a big problem lately for the Mavericks. They’ve lost nine of 10 when giving up at least 100 points and have won 12 straight when holding opponents to less than the century mark.

Dallas is down to sixth place in the West, having dropped two straight and seven of 12. Besides falling a game behind Memphis for fifth, the Mavericks trail first-place Minnesota by 4 1/2 in the Midwest Division.

Twenty-two of Dallas’ 27 losses have been on the road, including eight of its last nine.

“That’s been our Achilles’ heel all season: not being able to win on the road,” Antoine Walker said after Wednesday’s 103-99 loss at Indiana.

The Mavs end a four-game road trip Sunday in Orlando.

The Heat have won seven in a row at home, and now return to Miami after posting consecutive double-digit road wins at Washington and Orlando.

“We are focused together as a group,” said Lamar Odom, who had 20 points and 14 rebounds in Wednesday’s 105-90 victory over the Magic. “We play with relentless intensity. It is just clicking right now.”

Rookie Dwyane Wade had 24 points Wednesday and has averaged 20.4 on 58 percent shooting (39-for-67) over the last five games.

Wade and Jones, who scored 28 on Wednesday, could have an easier time if the Mavs are again missing guard Michael Finley, who sat out Dallas’ last game with a strained right calf.

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