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Heat going back to work on Tuesday

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MIAMI (AP) - Given that the Miami Heat have won 41 of their past 43 games, it's clear that things are going fairly well for the reigning NBA champions.

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And now they have time to get better.

Monday was a day off for the Heat, a reward for a four-game sweep of the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Heat will return to work on Tuesday - though the earliest they will hit the floor to begin their second-round series against either Chicago or Brooklyn would be Saturday.

``It will be tough, but we'll challenge each other and we'll push each other in practice,'' Heat forward Chris Bosh said. ``We have great professionals. We're not going to let each other slip. We're going to challenge each other, keep our conditioning up. When this next series starts I think we'll be ready.''

The time off certainly will be good for Dwyane Wade.

Miami's starting shooting guard has been dealing with bone bruises around his right kneecap for more than a month now, and was so sore on Sunday that he did not play in the Heat series-clinching win at Milwaukee.

At minimum, the layoff between rounds means Wade will have at least eight full days off without a game, possibly longer.

``It's big,'' Wade said. ``Obviously, we're one of the oldest teams in the league, maybe the oldest team in terms of rotation players. Guys have some bumps and bruises coming out of this series, so it's going to be great to get some rest. But also we have to take this time to continue to stay sharp, to continue to stay in shape as well.''

That's likely why Heat coach Erik Spoelstra summoned the team back to work so quickly.

The practice schedule for the rest of the week isn't known, but it's expected that Miami would get at least one more day off without a practice before Round 2 begins - though at this time of year, a ``day off'' typically means that most players are at the arena for treatment anyway.

``It's interesting because as long as I've been in the NBA I've seen other teams do it. Some teams have 10-12 days off before their next game,'' Heat guard Ray Allen said. ``It's interesting. We have an opportunity to get healthy, get home and take care of your body. For this team, a veteran team, everybody knows how to take care of their body.''

If LeBron James has any nagging health matters, they didn't present themselves against the Bucks.

James shot nearly 63 percent in the series, easily the best performance of his career in any playoff matchup. He finished the four games averaging 24.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.8 assists.

For him, staying focused during a layoff won't be an issue.

``We're a veteran ballclub,'' James said. ``It definitely won't be a problem for me. I understand what the playoffs all about. We've got an opportunity to rest because we took care of business but our business is not done. The only thing we guaranteed ourselves is the next round. That's it.''

The Heat have won 12 straight games going back to the regular season, a streak that started not long after they won 27 in a row - the second-best stretch in NBA history.

James shook off the notion that the Heat could go 16-0 in the playoffs, saying all that matters is the next game against either the Bulls or Nets.

``Sixteen is the ultimate goal. But No. 5 is what we want to get next. That will be Game 1 of the next round,'' James said. ``That's the way we approach it. Hopefully we're fortunate enough and continue to climb the ladder.''

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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