The Heat played without All-Star shooting guard Dwyane Wade and point guard Jason Williams on Friday night, but escaped with a 91-85 victory at Charlotte. Wade sprained his left ankle in a loss to Phoenix on Thursday night while Williams has missed the last two games following a weightlifting accident that required six stitches to close a laceration on his ring finger.
“I truly believe when all the parts are healthy, I know how good we are,” Miami coach Pat Riley said. “I’ve said it over and over again and I will continue to say it: I just think this team can do it, can do something special.
“We know there are going to be nights like these.”
Wade is expected back for the Houston game. If Williams is unable to play, Gary Payton would start in his place for the third straight contest.
Miami, which is 0-6 in games against the four teams with the best records in the NBA, nearly lost to the lowly Bobcats.
“I am totally indifferent to what other people think,” Riley said. “There are always going to be people trying to take you apart. But I do know if we are 0-6 against the top teams, there is room for improvement.”
Antoine Walker scored 12 of his 15 points and bailed the Heat out with three consecutive baskets in the fourth quarter.
“It’s real important to get him, he’s our missing link,” said Shaquille O’Neal, who had 23 points. “He’s going to be our Robert Horry. We need him to step up and hit shots and be consistent with the high percentage shot.”
Houston lost 96-92 to Minnesota on Friday night, the Rockets’ eighth defeat in their last nine home games.
“Our defense was bad, our defensive rebounding was awful,” said Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy, whose team fell to 4-14 at home. “Our post defense was disgraceful in the first half. Their two guards torched us in the post.
“The way we’re constructed, we cannot withstand bad stretches.”
The Rockets trailed by 12 points at halftime and were outrebounded 46-31. Tracy McGrady, playing with a protective facemask after bruising his nose on Wednesday, scored 19 points on 6-for-19 shooting.
“We have to bounce back,” said McGrady, who took off the facemask in the second half because it became uncomfortable. “We have Dwyane Wade coming in and we have to prepare ourselves for an early game Sunday. We definitely cannot allow ourselves to have teams come in here and let it get ugly.”
Stromile Swift returned to the lineup and scored 19 points after missing nine games with an eye infection. Center Yao Ming, who’s missed the past 18 contests since undergoing toe surgery on Dec. 19, said he’ll return to the lineup next week.