The Miami Heat didn’t have a good offensive performance in their last game, but a strong defensive effort helped them pull out a victory.
That is exactly what happened in their two matchups with the New Jersey Nets this season.
The Heat look for their third win in as many games against the lowly Nets on Monday night at the Izod Center.
Facing a third straight loss, Miami (36-34) defeated Charlotte 77-71 on Saturday despite shooting 35.9 percent. The Heat got only 14 points from Dwyane Wade(notes) and were playing without the injured Jermaine O’Neal(notes), but turned in one of their best defensive games of the season.
Miami held an opponent to fewer than 75 points for the fourth time this season, limiting the Bobcats to 29.2 percent from the field and recording a season-high 13 blocks.
“We were just active, covering ground, getting out on guys, bothering shooters,” swingman Dorell Wright(notes) said. “That’s how we’re going to get wins. We just had to bring the energy from early on.”
The Heat moved a half-game ahead of Charlotte for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
Miami is in the top five in the NBA in scoring defense, yielding 94.9 points per game. That impressive average is the result of efforts such as the two performances against the Nets.
Miami won the first matchup 81-80 on Nov. 14 and took the second 87-84 on Feb. 17. The Heat shot 39.2 percent in those contests but limited New Jersey to 39.0.
Wade delivered a 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left in the first victory, and the Heat overcame Wade’s first-quarter departure due to a sprained calf in the second meeting.
Miami is expected to get help offensively and defensively Monday with the return of O’Neal, who is listed in the starting lineup on the Heat’s official Web site. Averaging 13.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and a team-best 1.4 blocks, he sat out with a sprained left ankle Saturday.
O’Neal and Wade will try to prevent another close matchup with the Nets (7-62), losers of seven straight and three in a row by double digits. New Jersey fell 100-90 to Toronto on Saturday.
The Nets need three wins in the final 13 games to avoid tying the NBA record for losses, set by 9-73 Philadelphia in 1972-73. They could not come up with one of those victories against the Raptors, blowing a seven-point lead in the third quarter.
Point guard Devin Harris(notes) returned after missing two games with an upper respiratory infection and scored 22 points, while Yi Jianlian(notes) was back after sitting out six games with a sprained left ankle. He finished with nine points and five boards.
“The effort was definitely better, but we’re still floating around that 42-minute mark, where we really need to get that effort for 48 minutes,” said Harris, who scored 18 points in the most recent matchup with Miami.
Before scoring eight points in his injury-abbreviated performance Feb. 17, Wade averaged 30.0 points in the previous seven games against the Nets. The Heat have won five of the last six meetings.