Jazz-Heat Preview


Before another showdown with the only team ahead of them in the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat will try to avoid looking past a game against the worst in the West.

The Utah Jazz, though, have given the Heat some trouble in recent years and have improved since the addition of Trey Burke, who will get his first up-close look at LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on Monday night in Miami.

The Heat (17-6) have lost four of their past six matchups with Utah (6-20), and they've split their last six overall with Wade in-and-out of the lineup due to knee soreness. They'd surely like to put away this game early to possibly give him and James some extra rest before league-best Indiana visits Miami on Wednesday in another rematch of last season's East finals.

The Heat, who trail the Pacers by three games, lost 90-84 at Indiana last Tuesday. A three-day break followed, and they opened a five-game homestand Saturday with a 114-107 victory over Cleveland as James scored 25 and Wade had 24.

"As much rest as he can get, I think it helps," James said of Wade. "He's been great. He's been dealing with his knee, we all know that. It's not a secret. But when he's on the floor, he makes an impact."

So can Chris Bosh, though not all that frequently anymore. The extra rest may have benefited the All-Star center, whose 14.3 scoring average is his lowest since his 2003-04 rookie season. His 6.1 rebounds per game is the worst of his career, but Bosh posted his first double-double since Oct. 30 with 22 points and a season-best 12 rebounds Saturday.

"I wanted to be more consistent with my rebounding and be in the right spot at the right time," Bosh said.

He had only one rebound in Miami's last meeting with Utah, which had a 40-23 edge on the boards and won 104-97 on Jan. 14. The Jazz's top rebounders from that game - Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap - are no longer with the team, but their top scorer is - Gordon Hayward had 22 points - and he has an emerging new starting backcourt mate in Burke.

The reigning NCAA player of the year has played 14 games, starting the last 12, since missing the first few weeks of the season with a broken finger. The Jazz lost Burke's debut as a starter to fall to 1-14 but have since gone 5-6 as he's averaged 14.8 points and 5.6 assists.

"This group is just fighting to find out who we are, and we're learning every time we get out there," coach Tyrone Corbin said.

Burke totaled 19 assists and only one turnover in back-to-back road wins at Sacramento and Denver, then scored a team-high 20 in a 100-84 home loss to San Antonio on Saturday.

"Unfortunately they executed at a higher level," Burke said. "But we can't look back, we have to just try to learn from this game and get ready for a really good Miami team."

The Jazz, who are opening a five-game trip, have won three of five meetings since James joined the Heat even though he and Wade played in all of them. James has scored at least 30 in the last four, and his 30.5 career average versus the Jazz is his highest against any opponent.