After finishing 2007-08 as the NBA’s worst team, the Miami Heat pulled off a massive turnaround last season and reached the playoffs.
The Sacramento Kings look like they could be inspired to equal the feat.
The Kings will hope to move back above .500 as they host Miami on Sunday night, while the Heat try to salvage a split of their four-game road trip after a heartbreaking loss in their most recent game.
With Dwyane Wade(notes) injured for much of the season and the Heat using an overmatched young lineup, Miami lost 67 games in 2007-08 - tying a franchise record originally set in its inaugural season.
But Wade led the NBA in scoring last season, averaging 30.2 points and carrying the Heat back to the playoffs. Miami won six of its first seven to begin 2009-10, but has been slumping lately, dropping four of five and seven of 10.
The Heat (10-9) can hardly be blamed for their latest defeat, nearly pulling off a road upset of the reigning NBA champions before Kobe Bryant(notes) lifted the Los Angeles Lakers to a 108-107 win Friday night by banking in a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“If you told me before the game that it would be decided by Kobe shooting a one-legged backboard 3, I’d have taken that,” Wade said. “The basketball gods were with him on that one, but we did a great job and did what we’re supposed to do on the road - give ourselves a chance to win.”
Miami is 4-4 on the road this season with victories at Orlando and Portland. But winning at Sacramento presents another challenge, with the Kings having won four straight at Arco Arena.
Sacramento (9-9) is 8-2 at home one season after finishing an NBA-worst 17-65 overall, and the team’s surge has come despite leading scorer Kevin Martin(notes) missing the last 12 games due to a broken wrist.
Rookie Tyreke Evans(notes) has provided the biggest boost for the Kings after they drafted him out of Memphis with the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft. Evans has scored at least 20 points in 10 of his last 12 games, shooting 48.3 percent from the field in that stretch and leading the Kings to an 8-4 record.
His 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds weren’t enough, however, in a 115-107 loss at Phoenix on Saturday night, as Sacramento’s four-game winning streak came to an end.
The Kings led entering the fourth quarter, but they had problems defensively down the stretch and were unable to hand the Suns their first home loss.
“On the one hand, I’m really happy our young team played them so tough,” first-year Kings coach Paul Westphal said, “and on the other hand, I’m anxious for the day when we can learn the lessons we learned tonight and maybe get a game like this.”
They haven’t gotten many lately against Miami, which has won 10 of its last 11 against the Kings. Wade had 41 points in the Heat’s 119-115 overtime win at Sacramento on Jan. 9.
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