Heat-Rockets Preview

A couple of old stars have turned back the clock to help the Miami Heat rise to the top of the Southeast Division.

It doesn't appear Hassan Whiteside is quite ready to join them, some good news for a suddenly struggling Houston Rockets team which will be missing Dwight Howard.

Dwyane Wade and Amar'e Stoudemire could take advantage of Howard's absence Tuesday night when the Heat open a three-game road swing looking to extend their longest winning streak since LeBron James departed for Cleveland.

The 34-year-old Wade was named Eastern Conference player of the week after averaging 24.0 points on 50.0 percent shooting with 7.0 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.8 blocks during a four-game run that has Miami (27-21) percentage points ahead of Atlanta atop the division.

The 33-year-old Stoudemire only played in 12 of the first 40 games before getting pressed into action when Whiteside went down with a strained left hip. He's responded by averaging 9.3 points on 59.5 percent shooting and pulling down 7.5 rebounds over the past six.

Chris Bosh led the way with 18 points, while Wade and Luol Deng added 17 as the Heat moved past the Hawks with Sunday's 105-87 home win over the defending division champs. Stoudemire had season highs of 13 points and 12 boards for his first double-double since Dec. 7, 2014 with New York.

''Amar'e can be who he was in his 20's in short bursts if we're all smart about it and control the minutes,'' coach Erik Spoelstra said. ''That's the hardest thing for me to do.''

Since averaging 80.3 points in a season-high four-game skid, Miami has scored 100.8 in its last four. It has been more aggressive, getting to the free-throw line 58 times in the past two.

It was originally believed Whiteside might finally be available as the Heat go for their first five-game win streak since winning eight in a row Feb. 11-March 3, 2014. However, he reportedly has been ruled out for a sixth straight game due to an oblique injury.

Whiteside took advantage of Howard's absence in the first meeting with Houston, finishing with 25 points, 15 rebounds, three steals and two blocks in a 109-89 home win Nov. 1.

Howard won't be around for the rematch, either, after the NBA suspended him for one game without pay for ''striking the arm of a game official'' late in Saturday's 123-122 home loss to Washington.

The Rockets (25-25) recently petitioned to the league office in an effort to get the four technical fouls Howard received in getting ejected twice last weekend rescinded.

''These referees need to be held accountable for letting people attack Dwight and be that physical with him,'' interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. ''And dirty. It's not physical."

Following a 9-3 stretch last month, the Rockets are trying to avoid a season high-tying fourth consecutive defeat. James Harden attempted to pick them up with 40 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds and four steals in Saturday's 123-122 home loss to Washington.

The four-time All-Star has averaged 30.6 points while hitting 23 of 49 (46.9 percent) from 3-point range to go along with 9.3 boards and 8.6 assists over his last seven games. Miami, however, limited him to 16 points on 2-of-15 shooting - 0 for 10 from 3 - in the first meeting.

The Heat won't have guard Tyler Johnson for at least two months due to an injured rotator cuff.

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