The Heat (37-31) go for their seventh straight home win over the Philadelphia 76ers (27-42) when the teams close out their season series on Saturday night.
Miami, which is 23-11 at home this season, has outscored Philadelphia by an average of 15.2 points at American Airlines Arena since a 93-90 loss in December 2003. The Heat are going for split of the season series, having lost both games in Philadelphia.
O’Neal missed all three games against the Sixers this season after knee surgery sidelined him for more than three months. The future Hall of Famer is averaging 26.5 points and 11.9 rebounds in 37 career games against the 76ers.
But Shaq has struggled lately, getting into foul trouble in each of the last two contests and totaling only 25 points with six rebounds. With O’Neal struggling and Alonzo Mourning out with an injured right knee, the Heat have been forced to go with Michael Doleac in the middle. Mourning, averaging 9.0 points and 5.1 rebounds, may return for this game.
O’Neal picked up four fouls in 25 minutes and had 13 points—the only Miami player to reach double figures—in a 95-70 loss to Indiana on Friday night.
“We didn’t have anything from the first possession, and they took advantage of it,” Heat coach Pat Riley said after his team shot a season-low 32.5 percent from the floor. “They were playing a very big game, and we were just playing a game.
The defending NBA champions are 14-1 in their last 15 at home and trying to avoid consecutive losses there for the first time since Dec. 29-Jan. 3. The Heat start play one-half game behind Southeast Division-leading Washington, but the Wizards have a game in hand.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, could be without durable swingman Andre Iguodala, whose streak of 232 regular-season starts ended Friday night when he sat out with a strained lower back in a 106-97 win over Charlotte.
“It was weird playing without Andre,” Philadelphia forward Kyle Korver said. “He hasn’t missed a game. He’s a great player and a future All-Star. We obviously want him back as soon as possible. Without him, we had to come together as a team and we did that tonight.”
Andre Miller had 19 points to lead seven Sixers in double figures. Philadelphia shot 55.1 percent from the field, tying its third-best mark all season.
Iguodala, whose status for this game is uncertain, leads the team with a career-high 18.1 points. Against the Heat this season, he’s averaging 17.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists.
Philadelphia has been held to less than 100 points in five of its last six losses in Miami.