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Bobcats-Heat Preview

AP - Sports

The Miami Heat's bid to earn the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed took a major hit with a tough loss to the NBA's top team.

They'll have a good chance to bounce back against the league's worst club.

The Heat look to avoid their first three-game losing streak in three months by sending the visiting Charlotte Bobcats to their 15th consecutive defeat Friday night.

Miami had a chance to pull within two games of the East's top spot Thursday, but instead fell four games behind conference-leading Chicago after losing the lead late in regulation and falling to the Bulls 96-86 in overtime.

LeBron James scored 30 points, but he missed the first of two free throws that could've all but sealed the game for the Heat (40-17) with 11 seconds left in regulation. Instead, Bulls guard C.J. Watson tied it with a 3-pointer seconds later.

"This is one of the worst feelings in the regular season I've had this year," James said.

Dwyane Wade scored 21 points and Chris Bosh added 20 for Miami, which has lost three of four.

"I looked up and saw C.J. wide open when (Carlos) Boozer caught it," Wade said. "I didn't know what was going on. I tried to get over there and make a play on it. He still made a tough shot. That play hurt. We never recovered back from that shot."

Miami, which hasn't lost three straight since Jan. 10-13, probably won't have time to recover enough to get the East's top seed. The club has nine games left while the Bulls have only seven, although the teams meet one more time next Thursday.

The Heat's biggest challenge Friday might be dealing with a major drop in intensity as they seek their eighth straight win over reeling Charlotte (7-50).

Wade banked in a runner with three seconds remaining to lift the Heat to a 96-95 win over Charlotte on Dec. 28, just after Gerald Henderson hit a 3-pointer to give the Bobcats the lead.

The next meeting wasn't nearly as close. Bosh had game highs of 24 points and 10 rebounds as the Heat ran away with a 129-90 home win Jan. 1.

The Bobcats have lost 19 games by at least 20 points, trailing by as many as 36 in Thursday's 109-85 home loss to Detroit. D.J. Augustin and Derrick Brown each had 13 points to lead Charlotte, which announced before the game that Corey Maggette would not play for the remainder of the season due to a strained right Achilles.

"We're missing a lot of people and having to play my young boys, we just didn't have it," coach Paul Silas said. "Defensively we didn't stop anybody. Rebounding-wise we just didn't block out. It's just one of those nights where nothing went right for us - nothing."

Charlotte is two losses away from matching its franchise-record skid of 16 straight defeats set earlier this season Jan. 16-Feb. 15. Its last win was a 107-103 victory over Toronto on March 17.

"We have to play better," Silas said, shaking his head. "We have to play better or I don't know what it's going to be like."

The Bobcats' last victory over the Heat was an 83-78 home victory March 9, 2010.

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