Houston (38-34) at Miami (50-22)

By JEFF MEZYDLO, STATS Senior Writer Saturday, Mar 26, 2011 Tipoff: 6:00 pm EDT Sun Mar 27, 2011

While the Miami Heat and Houston Rockets are playing well, only one of those clubs is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.

Hoping to move closer to playoff position, the visiting Rockets look for a season-high sixth consecutive victory while trying to snap the Heat’s four-game winning streak Sunday night.

At the beginning of the month, Miami (50-22) was mired in a season-high five-game skid and shedding tears in the locker room. Since then, the Heat have won seven of eight and are one-half game behind Boston for second in the Eastern Conference.

“We still have room for improvement,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We are unique, we feel, to other teams. We still don’t know necessarily what our ceiling is and we’ve got to keep on striving for that. Part of that is consistency. Part of that is getting more players involved, aggressive and confident.”

Despite sitting ninth in the West and 1 1/2 games behind Memphis for the eighth and final playoff spot, Houston (38-34) has shown plenty of confidence while going 12-3 since the All-Star break.

“You can only win your games because that’s the only way we’re going to get there,” coach Rick Adelman told the Rockets’ official website. “We started this thing by going on the road and winning, and that’s what we’re going to have to continue to do.”

Though the Rockets beat Golden State 131-112 on Wednesday to conclude a 5-1 homestand, they open a three-game trip trying to avoid a fourth consecutive loss to Miami before heading to New Jersey and Philadelphia.

“It’d be great to win all three,” said forward Chuck Hayes(notes), who posted his first career triple-double with 13 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists against the Warriors. “We’re playing to win all three.”

However, opponents have averaged 90.6 points and shot 42.5 percent in Miami’s last eight games.

The Heat have shot 50.5 percent over the last four games, and made a season road-best 58.1 percent of their shots in a 125-119 win at Houston on Dec. 29. Dwyane Wade(notes) scored a season-high 45 points, Chris Bosh(notes) had 21 and LeBron James(notes) added 20 with nine assists.

Averaging 27.4 points all-time versus Houston, Wade finished with 39 and had 11 rebounds, eight assists and five blocks as Miami overcame a 16-point deficit to beat Philadelphia 111-99 on Friday.

James added 32 points and Bosh 20 while both finished with 10 boards as the Heat reached the 50-win mark for the first time since their 2005-06 championship season.

“This team is a great team,” 76ers coach Doug Collins said of the Heat. “They’ve got so many different options they can go to. Those three guys got 91 points. That’s tough to beat.”

The Rockets could face an even bigger challenge with Miami center Zydrunas Ilgauskas(notes) expected to be in uniform after missing seven games with a foot injury.

Houston, however, should have some momentum coming off their highest scoring game of the season. Kevin Martin(notes) finished with 34 points for the second straight game, Courtney Lee(notes) had 25 and Luis Scola(notes) added 20 with 10 rebounds as the Rockets shot 50.5 percent against the Warriors.

Martin averaged 27.5 points on the recent homestand, but just 7.0 in six career games at Miami.

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Sunday, Mar 27