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Heat-Pistons Preview

AP - Sports

Two scary falls aren't about to sideline LeBron James.

James expects to play when the Miami Heat go for a fourth straight win Friday night against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

James said Thursday that he was improving despite still dealing with neck and elbow stiffness after suffering two hard falls during Tuesday's 99-95 home victory over Phoenix.

Near the end of the game, James collided with Grant Hill and was on the court for nearly 2 minutes before being helped to his feet.

"When he was still down, I knew it was something," teammate Dwyane Wade said Wednesday. "It was a good hit. But he's fine. He's good. He wasn't out of it. He just got hit pretty good."

James said he will play Friday, and coach Erik Spoelstra said his superstar passed the training staff's tests.

The Heat (34-11), who have won six of eight and are three games behind Chicago for the best record in the NBA, are trying to improve their consistency on the road. They open a three-game trip 14-9 away from home, but with four losses in their last five road contests.

"We've got to get back on track when we leave this city," Spoelstra said. "Get to the level of basketball we were playing on the road before the break."

Miami is giving up an average of 96.0 points in its last five road games compared to 86.2 in the last five at home, where the Heat have won 14 straight.

Looking to strengthen its play inside, Miami signed veteran center Ronny Turiaf this week. Turiaf, who could be available Friday, played four games with Washington this season and has averaged 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds during his seven-year career.

The Heat have won six straight in Detroit and five in a row overall against the Pistons (16-30), including a 101-98 victory at The Palace on Jan. 25 behind 32 points from James. Wade sat out that contest with a right ankle injury.

In addition to its skid in the series with Miami, Detroit hopes to snap a three-game overall losing streak Friday. The Pistons fell 116-115 at Denver on Wednesday to complete a 1-4 road trip.

Ben Gordon tied an NBA record by going 9 of 9 from 3-point range, but after rallying from a 25-point deficit the Pistons came up short. Nuggets center JaVale McGee rebounded a missed free throw and dunked with five seconds remaining.

Gordon finished with a season-high 45 points - three off his career best - while making his first start since January in place of the injured Rodney Stuckey (toe).

"I just tried not to think about the points or look at what I was scoring," Gordon said. "I think that's why I was able to shoot the ball the way I did. But it's unfortunate that after a performance like that from the team as whole, after being down 25, it's a tough pill to swallow."

The Nuggets shot 58.2 percent as Detroit gave up at least 105 points for the fourth time in five games. Opponents shot 50.5 percent against the Pistons during the trip.

Stuckey's status for Friday is uncertain.

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