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Magic-Heat Preview

AP - Sports

As much as the Miami Heat might like to duplicate their most recent effort from beyond the arc, defending the 3-point line could be a more pivotal factor against the Orlando Magic.

Keeping Dwight Howard in check might help, too.

A 20-20 game from Howard, like the one he had in his last outing, and a 3-point barrage lifted the Magic in the most recent matchup with their south Florida rival. They head to Miami on Sunday as the only team to beat the Heat in the past two weeks.

This game features the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference, with Miami having won five in a row and 13 of 15 while the Magic have taken four straight and eight of 10.

"We definitely don't wanna take the foot off the gas, we're playing some great basketball," LeBron James said after Miami went a season-best 14 of 21 from 3-point range in a 111-87 win at Cleveland on Friday.

The Heat (24-7) are unbeaten since a 102-89 defeat in Orlando on Feb. 8, when James was held to 17 points on 5-of-15 shooting. Howard had 25 points and 24 rebounds while the Magic made 17 3-pointers on a team-record 42 attempts.

"They shot the 3 extremely well and the big fella in the middle took care of his 20 and 20 once again," James said following that matchup. "Sometimes you have to pick your poison, but we gave up both tonight. They are an extremely tough team to beat when they are making the 3s and the big fella is doing what he wants."

The Magic are 11-0 when hitting 12 or more 3-pointers and 15-1 when making at least 40 percent beyond the arc.

Their 9-of-29 performance from long distance Friday was among their worst of the season, and they didn't lead for most of the first 3 1/2 quarters against a visiting Milwaukee team that had lost six of eight. However, Orlando (20-11) scored the game's final 17 points to win 94-85.

While Hedo Turkoglu keyed the comeback with 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, Howard finished with 26 points and 20 rebounds. In the previous three games, Howard averaged 13.0 points and 11.7 boards - both well below his season marks - but Orlando went 42 of 92 (45.7 percent) from 3-point range.

The only East team with a better 3-point percentage than the Magic (39.1) is Miami at 40.4.

The Heat are home after a six-game trip that began with the loss in Orlando but ended with five victories by at least 15 points.

"I think this is the best we've been playing all year," Dwyane Wade said.

The Magic might feel similarly, but now they begin a road swing that includes four games in five days.

"It will be a tough road trip," guard Jason Richardson said. "But if we stay together, stay focused, keep battling to the end, then you can just look at the outcome. But I think we have to keep playing hard on the road."

Richardson was a big factor in the Magic's last visit to Miami, scoring 11 of his 24 points during a second-half comeback from a 24-point deficit in a 99-96 win March 3.

While Richardson had six points on 2-of-11 shooting Friday after averaging 20.7 in the previous three games, Ryan Anderson had 23 following a 27-point game two nights earlier against Philadelphia. Anderson also scored 27 and hit five 3-pointers earlier this month against Miami.

Dwyane Wade had 33 points in that game, but the Heat are 0-2 when he scores more than 30.

Chris Bosh is averaging 12.8 points on 34.6 percent shooting in the last four games.

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