The Miami Heat are closing in on their first Southeast Division title in four years.
With some help, the Heat can wrap up the division Sunday when they go for their seventh straight win over the New Jersey Nets.
Miami (53-23) moved a half-game ahead of Boston for the second seed in the Eastern Conference after a 111-92 win over Minnesota on Friday. The Heat, who trail Chicago for the conference lead, have played one more game than the Celtics.
While the Heat battle for one of the top two spots in the East, they can clinch the division as soon as Sunday with a win and a loss by Orlando. They haven’t won a Southeast title since 2006-07.
Miami has won 10 of 12 heading into the finale of a four-game road trip. On Friday, the Heat trailed at the half but came out of the break on a 25-1 run to take control. Dwyane Wade(notes) scored 16 of his 32 points in the decisive third quarter, while LeBron James(notes) finished with 27 points and 10 assists.
Wade has averaged 31.6 points in the last five games while James has averaged 30.8.
Although the Heat have faced three of the NBA’s worst teams during this road trip, including Cleveland and Washington, it’s been a battle for them.
“You wish you could just simulate the rest of these games and get to the postseason,” said James, who played 43 minutes Friday. “Let me get my rest. We’ve still got work to do. We’re not taking these games for granted.”
A matchup against another struggling team in the East might help. James has gotten plenty of rest in two easy wins this season over the Nets (23-52). He played 29 minutes in a 101-78 victory Oct. 31 and 34 minutes in a 101-89 win Nov. 6. Miami led by an average of 21.5 points after the third quarter in those games.
The last meeting got physical when New Jersey’s Terrence Williams(notes) drove his shoulder into James, who was sent over courtside photographers and into the front row. Williams was called for a flagrant-one foul.
The Heat will be looking to hand the Nets their seventh straight loss in the series and sixth in a row overall.
The Nets fell 115-90 to Philadelphia on Friday. It was the fourth time during the losing streak they were held to 90 points or fewer.
“I saw it coming in shootaround. I saw it in their eyes,” coach Avery Johnson said. “We haven’t had many bad practices, but today we were in a fog.”
Williams has averaged 22.6 points and 11.0 assists his last five games against the Heat, but he hasn’t faced them since being acquired by the Nets.
New Jersey has been held to an average of 84.3 points in the last six meetings while shooting 38.0 percent.