|Riley is Back and Heat Look for Road Win in Houston|
|Written by TheSpread|
|Wednesday, 21 February 2007 10:30|
NBA Basketball: Miami Heat at Houston Rockets - Rockets Favored
Looking to help the Heat build on the momentum they took into the All-Star break, Riley will be back coaching for the first time in seven weeks as the defending NBA champions visit the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.
Oddsmakers have made Houston -3 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 184 total
points (View NBA Sports Books).
Riley cited health issues as the reason he left the team on Jan. 3. He had a procedure to repair knee cartilage, followed by hip replacement surgery, but admitted on Monday the team's 13-17 start factored into his decision.
"I was not responding very well to the situation," the 61-year-old Riley said. "I was very intolerant of just about anything. I don't think I was doing a credible job at all as a coach."
Riley is hoping the team will be much better following a rough first half of the season, which was marred by significant injuries.
"There's something about this team, in spite of how we blew the start of the season," Riley said. "That stuff is behind us. I just hope we can keep building on what we have, and defend the championship with a lot more energy than we had."
Miami (26-26) won seven of its final eight games before the break, finishing the first half of the season with easy wins over San Antonio and Portland.
The Heat now look to move over .500 for the first time since they were 3-2 in early November.
"We wanted at the beginning of the year to come out of the blocks strong but it wasn't scripted that way," Dwyane Wade said. "So we have to take what we have and go into the second half of the season, and hopefully ... we have all our guns and we have our coach back and just try to defend our title."
A big factor determining the team's fate will be the health of Shaquille O'Neal, who has played only 13 games this season due to knee problems. He is averaging 13.5 points and 5.8 rebounds - both far below his career averages of 26.1 and 11.7.
While O'Neal is slowly regaining his form, Wade has continued to develop into a superstar. The fourth-year guard, who scored 10 points in Sunday's All-Star game, is averaging career highs of 28.8 points and 7.8 assists.
Wade's contributions are a big reason that despite the team's struggles, the Heat would make the playoffs if the season ended now.
While the Heat have an NBA Finals rematch at Dallas on Thursday, the team's first task is avenging an embarrassing home loss to Houston (33-19) earlier in the season.
The Heat lost 94-72 to the Rockets on Nov. 12. O'Neal had 15 points and 10 rebounds, but was dominated by Yao Ming, who had 34 points and 14 rebounds.
Yao was averaging a career-high 25.9 points and 9.4 rebounds before suffering a broken right tibia at the end of December. He hopes to return early next month.
Forty-year-old Dikembe Mutombo has filled in for Yao and had a career resurgence, averaging 5.3 points and 11.2 rebounds since taking over as the starting center.
"After 16 years, some people think that I shouldn't be playing 30 minutes per game," Mutombo told the team's official Web site. "All it takes is hard work."
Mutombo and Tracy McGrady, who is averaging 23.9 points, have helped turn around Houston after a dismal 2005-06 season. The Rockets are in fifth place in the Western Conference and with a win Wednesday, would equal their victory total for all of last season.
By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us
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