MIAMI — Dwyane Wade had 27 points and eight assists, Jermaine O'Neal finished with 19 points and nine rebounds, and the Miami Heat extended their longest home winning streak of the season to four games by beating the Los Angeles Clippers 108-97 on Wednesday night, March 10.
Michael Beasley scored 15 points before leaving with a thigh bruise late in the third quarter, and Mario Chalmers chipped in with 12 points for Miami.
Former Heat forward Rasual Butler scored 31 points, two off his career best, for the Clippers, who lost their fifth straight. Chris Kaman scored 16, Steve Blake added 12 and Baron Davis scored 10 for the Clippers, now 2-20 on the road since Dec. 19.
Wade made 15 of 17 free throws and added six rebounds for Miami. He sat out the fourth quarter, and Los Angeles got within 106-97 on a 3-pointer by Davis with 1:16 left, but the lead was never in serious doubt.
Butler didn't score in the game's final 16:50.
The Heat (33-32) moved a game ahead of Chicago in the chase for eighth place in the Eastern Conference, though the Bulls also have 32 losses and two games in hand. Miami is 0.00024 percentage points behind Charlotte, which won in Philadelphia on Wednesday night.
Miami has pointed to this six-game homestand, which began Wednesday, as a chance to get rolling — with good reason.
Of Miami's 17 remaining games, only five are against teams currently over .500 — and the last eight all will likely pit the Heat against lottery-bound teams.
The Clippers remain alive in the playoff race only mathematically (they started Wednesday 12 games out with 18 remaining). But still, it took the Heat nearly three full quarters to put away this one.
And Butler was the reason for that.
He scored 14 points in the first quarter, looking comfortable as ever on his former home floor, and the Heat didn't offer much in the way of resistance. In the third quarter, Butler made his first five shots, including a trio of 3-pointers. The last of which came with 4:50 left, getting the Clippers within 75-70.
It could have sent the Heat harkening back to Tuesday night, when they wasted a big second-half lead in Charlotte.
Instead, a 15-2 run closed the quarter, turning a tenuous lead into a 90-72 cushion entering the fourth. Wade had seven points during the burst, plus used his eighth assist to set up a 3-pointer by Mario Chalmers with 11.7 ticks remaining, and the Heat weren't in danger again.
File Photo. Dwyane Wade