After spending plenty of time on the road the last few weeks, the Miami Heat will likely be happy to return home on Monday.
That's when they will open a five-game homestand against the slumping Charlotte Bobcats, who will try to end a three-game losing streak after dealing with a scary injury in its last defeat.
Miami, which already defeated Charlotte 105-92 on Dec. 26, has won eight of its last nine games at AmericanAirlines Arena, where it's 18-3 on the season.
The Heat (30-14) played 10 of their last 12 on the road, however, finishing that stretch 7-5 after a 100-85 win at Toronto on Sunday. That victory guaranteed possession of the East's best record as of Feb. 3, meaning Erik Spoelstra and his staff will coach the East squad in the All-Star Game in Houston in two weeks.
In Spoelstra's starting lineup will be LeBron James, who had 30 points on Sunday, and Dwyane Wade, who added 23.
"You don't spend any time thinking about it as it's happening, you're just trying to prepare your team and make sure you have the best record," Spoelstra said. "Now that it happened, it's cool. We'll make the most of it. Our staff is thrilled about it."
Chris Bosh - a reserve selection for the All-Star team - had 28 points on Sunday against his former team. Bosh wasn't as efficient in his previous seven games, averaging 12.7 points on 44.9 percent shooting before going 12 of 19 from the field against Toronto.
Bosh's 54.3 field-goal percentage this season is a career high, though, surpassing his previous mark of 51.8 percent during his final season with the Raptors in 2009-10.
"Chris really gave us a presence in the paint," Spoelstra said. " ... He was collapsing the defense with his rolls to the rim, catching it and going up strong in traffic. That makes us a different team when he gives us that presence."
The Bobcats (11-35) have lost 11 of 13 but had more reasons to be worried on Saturday besides a 109-95 road loss against the Rockets.
Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was hospitalized in Houston for the night after suffering a concussion. His head collided with teammate Jeff Taylor's hip when Gilchrist took to the air to defend a layup while Taylor jumped for a rebound in the fourth quarter. He left the court on a stretcher, and X-rays and a CT scan taken later were negative.
Charlotte trailed by one when the play took place, and was outscored 28-15 from there.
"We can throw out any excuse we want," coach Mike Dunlap said. "We know it's difficult. They're humans and they care about their teammate, but the other team had a stoppage as well."
Ramon Sessions is riding a hot streak, scoring 20 or more points in four of his last five games.
Wade scored a game-high 29 points in the first meeting while James had 27, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Kemba Walker tallied 27 points for the Bobcats.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved