New Orleans (6-8) at Miami (7-5)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Miami, FL
Temp: 80° F
  • Game info: 6:00 pm EST Sun Nov 22, 2009
  • TV: CST, SUN
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The Miami Heat have certainly cooled off after a strong start. Sub-par defensive play has been a major factor, and a meeting with the suddenly surging New Orleans Hornets might not help, either.

The Heat will try to halt a three-game losing streak Sunday night by beating the Hornets for the first time in nearly three years.

Miami (7-5) opened the season by winning six of seven, but have since lost four of five and their current losing streak matches their longest from last season.

The Heat haven’t dropped four in a row since a seven-game slide from March 26-April 6, 2008. Miami took a step closer to that dubious mark Friday, losing 120-113 at Toronto.

“One thing you learn in this league is you don’t get too high, you don’t get too low,” said guard Dwyane Wade(notes), who had 30 points after scoring a season-low 15 in a 105-90 loss at Atlanta two nights earlier. “When we were 6-1, if you’d asked me I’d say we’ve got to continue to get better. Now we’re 7-5 and we’ve got to continue to get better.”

One area where the Heat need improvement is defense. They’ve allowed an average of 103.2 points over the last five games, up from 88.6 over the first seven.

Miami allowed 43 points in the second quarter against Toronto to trail by 20 at the half.

“To just let out the floodgates and allow them 69 points in the first half, that is not our game,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We have to take notice and take it to heart. … We’ve worked too hard and fought too hard for this identity to just surrender it this quickly.”

The Heat have lost four in a row and six of seven to the Hornets (6-8). They haven’t beaten New Orleans since a 101-99 win at American Airlines Arena on Dec. 18, 2006.

The Hornets’ start to 2009-10 wasn’t nearly as productive as Miami’s. They dropped eight of 11, firing coach Byron Scott nine games in, and lost guard Chris Paul(notes) to a sprained ankle that will likely keep him out until early December.

After falling 121-98 at Atlanta on Nov. 14 in its first game without the two-time All-Star, New Orleans has won three in a row and snapped the Hawks’ seven-game winning streak on Saturday, 96-88.

Solid play from rookie guards Darren Collison(notes) and Marcus Thornton(notes) has helped offset the loss of the Hornets’ floor leader.

Collison, who has started all four games in place of Paul, scored 22 points and dished out a season-high 11 assists Saturday for his first double-double. Thornton added 21 points after posting 19 in a 110-103 win over Phoenix two nights earlier.

“When you’re a rookie you’ve got to come in and make a name for yourself,” said Thornton, who is averaging 11.8 points. “Me and Darren from Day 1 when we came in, we knew we could play this game, and we just stuck together throughout … and we prevailed (Saturday).”

New Orleans is also getting production from Peja Stojakovic(notes). The oft-injured swingman is averaging 20.5 points over the last four games after managing 8.0 over the first 10.

He had 24 points in a 93-87 overtime win at Miami on April 7.

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Sunday, Nov 22