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Heat-Thunder Preview

AP - Sports

The Miami Heat's Chris Bosh isn't placing too much importance on the race for the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs, but he understands how crucial it is for his team to have home-court advantage should it return to the NBA finals.

Bosh and his teammates can help themselves during two matchups against the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder over the next 11 days, beginning with Sunday night's visit to Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Miami (35-11) wasn't the No. 1 seed for last season's playoffs nor the top team in the Eastern Conference, but reached the NBA finals after winning two of its three games in Chicago during the conference finals. The Heat, though, also lost two of their three home contests against Dallas in the championship series.

Miami currently trails Chicago in the East but is percentage points ahead of Oklahoma City (36-12).

"It's important, but it's not the end of the world because there's only one (top) overall seed in the playoffs," Bosh said. "You can't say, 'Oh, well, we're No. 2. It's over.'

"I think once you get to a certain part in the playoffs, everybody's a good road team, everybody's a good home team, so it's kind of neutral a little bit. But if it does come down to it, for a Game 7, you'd rather be at home."

The Heat will try to take a step toward earning more home games by winning their fifth in a row and continuing their recent improvement on the road, where they're 15-9. Miami won its second in a row away from home Friday, 88-73 over Detroit, after dropping a season-high four straight.

Dwyane Wade had 24 points, nine rebounds and five assists to lead the way against the Pistons. After giving up at least 104 points in back-to-back defeats to Orlando and Chicago, Miami has allowed an average of 81.8 points and 39.5 percent shooting during its win streak.

"We're a pretty good defensive team," swingman Shane Battier said. "We know come playoff time that's going to be our calling card."

The Heat will have one of their tougher challenges in trying to contain the Thunder, the league's second-high scoring team (103.6 points per game).

Oklahoma City has averaged 112.1 points on 50.5 percent shooting over its last eight games but hadn't posted consecutive wins during that stretch until a 149-140 double-overtime victory against Minnesota on Friday. The Thunder outlasted the Timberwolves behind a career-high 45 points from Russell Westbrook and 40 from Kevin Durant.

Oklahoma City, 5-5 before its consecutive home wins, is facing a potentially important stretch of games as it tries to maintain its lead in the West. The Thunder will visit the Los Angeles Lakers, the No. 3 team in the West, on Thursday then host Chicago and Memphis before heading to Miami and Indiana.

"You always want to play good basketball against the best teams in the league and we have that opportunity ... to play playoff-type games in March," coach Scott Brooks said. "We're going to use that to our advantage."

The Thunder, 21-4 at home this season, have lost in two of the Heat's three visits to Oklahoma City but have won three of the past four overall matchups.

Durant scored 29 points during a 96-85 win in Miami last March and has averaged 32.2 over his last five games against the Heat. Westbrook, meanwhile, has shot 29.5 percent (13 of 44) during his past three matchups and averaged 15.0 points.

James has averaged 28.6 points in 14 career games against the Thunder and Wade has provided 28.6 per game over his last seven meetings. The Heat guard had a team-best 32 during a 108-103 victory in Oklahoma City on Jan. 30, 2011.

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