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Archive for Friday, March 9, 2007

Defense raising Heat in East standings

March 9, 2007

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— Alonzo Mourning rose and swatted Tyrus Thomas' dunk attempt away, then shouted at his Miami Heat teammates to stand and cheer.

He was so menacing that a referee, thinking Mourning yelled at him, seemed poised to call a technical foul. Alas, there was no need - Mourning was merely illustrating how seriously he and Miami take defense these days.

"When you're a shot blocker, guys are going to test you," Mourning said. "I like my chances."

Right now, everyone in the Heat locker room likes his chances.

Miami's 103-70 win over Chicago on Wednesday was the Heat's biggest victory this season, plus their 10th straight win at home - and no opponent has topped 93 points in those contests. The Heat are sixth in the Eastern Conference standings, three games behind Washington in the Southeast Division.

"It was time to pick our defense up," Heat center Shaquille O'Neal said after Wednesday's win moved the defending NBA champions (31-29) a season-best two games over .500. "They say defense wins championships. Well, we're shooting the ball well and playing pretty good defense. We keep playing like this, we'll be fine."

And Mourning's block on Thomas, Shaq?

"Alonzo is the second-best shot blocker in the history of the game," O'Neal said. "I'm first, of course."

Mourning - who blocked four shots and took none in 111â2 minutes of play Wednesday - is maybe the best example of the defense-first Heat these days, but he's hardly the only one.

James Posey took six charges in the game, including on back-to-back possessions twice in the second half. And everyone in the primary Heat rotation either registered at least one block or one steal in the game, part of how Miami managed 26 points off turnovers, the team's third-highest total this season.

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