February 05, 2015

An offense operating with remarkable precision has kept the Miami Heat atop a crowded Southeast Division.

That efficiency will be put the test when the Heat conclude a brief road trip Wednesday night against the NBA's premier defensive team, the San Antonio Spurs.

Despite having Chris Bosh sidelined since the All-Star break with a recurrence of blood clots, the Heat continue to fend off challenges from Atlanta and Charlotte in the competitive Southeast. Miami (41-29) has remained a half-game ahead of both by winning nine of its last 12 behind a resourceful offense averaging 113.4 points per game in March.

The Heat shot at least 50 percent for the sixth time in seven games in Tuesday's 113-99 victory at depleted New Orleans, receiving another dominant outing from Hassan Whiteside to complement Dwayne Wade's 25 points and Goran Dragic's 21.

Whiteside added 24 on 10-of-11 shooting along with 14 rebounds. The league's leader in blocks owns a 75.7 field goal percentage while averaging 18.8 points and 11.0 rebounds over a four-game stretch.

''I got hot,'' Whiteside said. ''I felt like they were kind of relaxed and I was getting a couple wide-open jumpers and I was trying to take advantage of them.''

Tuesday's win was Miami's 10th in its last 14 road games, the NBA's second-highest winning percentage behind Golden State since Jan. 25. Obtaining another, as well as maintaining its recent shooting pace, figures to be a difficult task, however.

The Spurs lead the league in scoring defense (92.3) and field goal percentage defense (43.1) and haven't lost a regular season game at home in over a calendar year. They earned a 44th consecutive win at AT&T Center - tying the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for the second longest in NBA history - by holding Golden State's high-powered attack to 37.8 percent in Saturday's impressive 87-79 victory.

San Antonio (59-11), four games back of the Warriors for the Western Conference lead, has struggled on the other end of late. After shooting 41.0 percent against Golden State, the Spurs sputtered in the second half of Monday's 91-88 loss at surging Charlotte.

The Spurs shot 36.6 percent while managing 37 points over the final two quarters to squander an early 23-point lead, their largest in a loss during the 19-year Tim Duncan era. They also were hurt by 10 second-half turnovers the Hornets converted into 13 points.

''We turned the ball over a little too much - just inconsistency throughout,'' said Duncan, who had his highest scoring effort since Jan. 6 with 16 points. ''It was an unfortunate loss, but we will move on from it and hopefully become better from it.''

San Antonio, which hasn't lost consecutive games this season, had little trouble producing in a 119-101 win at Miami on Feb. 9, receiving 28 points from LaMarcus Aldridge and 23 from Kawhi Leonard while outscoring the Heat 58-44 in the paint.

While Leonard is shooting just 39.3 percent over the last two games, Aldridge is averaging 23.6 points and 9.9 rebounds over his past 11.

Miami, 3-24 all-time in San Antonio in regular-season play, has been held to 88.5 points per game and averaged 18.5 turnovers in four straight losses to the Spurs.

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