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No Place Like Home for Heat

Winning for the 16th straight time at its arena, Miami ousts New Orleans, 85-77, to continue unlikely run.

May 05, 2004|From Associated Press

MIAMI — Long removed from its 0-7 start, the Miami Heat now seem unbeatable at home -- which is why it is headed for the second round of the NBA playoffs.

With the Heat running from the start and New Orleans guard Baron Davis hobbled by halftime, Miami extended its home winning streak to 16 games by beating the Hornets, 85-77, Tuesday night to clinch the first-round series, 4-3.

The home team won every game, and the Heat became the final NBA team to reach round two -- and the most improbable. It was 25-57 last season, 0-7 in November, 5-15 in December and 25-36 in March before staging a late-season surge.

"We have a lot to be proud of," forward Lamar Odom said. "At 5-15 in the NBA, a lot of teams start to get ready for next year. But we worked and worked and worked.... This win tonight -- that's all that hard work. It paid off."

Miami advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals against the top-seeded Indiana Pacers, who have been idle since completing a sweep of Boston on April 25.

"I'm not talking about Indiana tonight," Heat Coach Stan Van Gundy said with a grin. "That's out. I'm enjoying this for at least three or four hours."

Game 1 is Thursday in Indianapolis.

"If I was Indiana, I'd be kind of nervous playing against this team," the Hornets' Davis said. "They're young and talented, and they play like they've got nothing to lose."

Smothering defense and a potent transition game gave a crowd of 20,286 -- the largest in Heat history -- plenty to cheer about.

Caron Butler led the victory with 23 points, and Rafer Alston made four free throws in the final 2:09 after the Hornets reduced a 16-point deficit to five.

Miami finished with 18 fast-break points to five for New Orleans.

"It was Aqueduct race track out there tonight," said Odom, who had 16 points and nine rebounds. "We just keep pushing it and pushing it."

The injury-plagued Davis bruised his tailbone when he drew an offensive foul and took a tumble late in the second quarter. He limped to the locker room before halftime, played only three minutes in the second half and watched the fourth quarter from the bench as New Orleans turned to veteran Steve Smith for most of its offense.

Davis had been hampered earlier in the series by knee, ankle and elbow injuries.

"I can't move too much," he shouted to Coach Tim Floyd shortly before leaving the game for good with the Hornets trailing, 52-39.

Smith, 35, came off the bench to keep New Orleans in the game with a season-high 25 points, including five three-pointers.

The defeat ended an up-and-down season for Floyd, whose job may be in jeopardy after his team fell short of expectations.

"This team needs to do some soul-searching -- everyone, not just the players," center Jamaal Magloire said.

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