Monday , Apr , 16 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Heat gearing up for playoffs

(Sports Network) – The Miami Heat have had to overcome a lot this season, but
still ended up where they wanted to be. That’s on top of the Southeast
Division.

Injuries to its two biggest stars threatened to derail Miami’s season both at
the beginning and the end, but the club fought through and clinched the
division with a win over Washington last Wednesday. It marked the Heat’s third
straight division crown and seventh since the 1996-97 season.

More significant was that Dwyane Wade was in the lineup, and Shaquille O’Neal
could have been. O’Neal, though, was late getting back to Miami after his
grandfather’s funeral the previous day.

O’Neal missed 32 games of the season after left knee surgery on November 19.
Rehab kept him out of the lineup until January 24.

Yet, O’Neal has still been a force this year, averaging 17.3 points and 7.4
rebounds per game in 39 contests this year. O’Neal is netting just under 19
points per outing over his last 19 games.

That’s important because it showed O’Neal was able to step up when Wade went
down with a shoulder injury that almost cost him his season. Wade missed 23
games before returning to the lineup on April 8.

He showed he was back to form on Friday when he netted a team-high 23 points
against Indiana.

In fact, the Heat players have missed 179 total games due to injury and that
doesn’t even include the time head coach Pat Riley missed due to a hip
ailment.

Having O’Neal and Wade on the floor at the same time makes the Heat very
dangerous and capable of winning a wide-open Eastern Conference. The Heat
have won 18 of their last 19 home games, which is key because the team is
currently seeded fourth in the East.

Since January 30th, the Heat are tied with the top-seeded Pistons for the best
record in the conference at 25-11.

Miami hosts Boston on Monday before closing out the regular season in Orlando
on Wednesday.

MIA