MIAMI (AP) -- Not only did the Miami Heat get their regulars
plenty of rest, they might have found another scorer for the
Rasual Butler -- who had only three double-digit scoring games
since Feb. 1 -- got a career-high 25 points, leading the Heat to a
99-80 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday night.
The Heat, playing without injured Shaquille O'Neal, also got 14
points from Dwyane Wade in their final home game of the regular
season. Wade played only 23 minutes, leaving with 3:10 left in the
"I've been practicing really hard, doing a lot of praying and
just waiting for my next opportunity," said Butler, who opened the
year as a starter before being relegated to a reserve role. "I
hoped that when I was given it, I would seize the moment."
He did, scoring 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting in the fourth
quarter and helping fuel Miami's game-ending 18-7 run. With Butler
leading the way, Miami's reserves outscored Charlotte's 45-36.
"It would be very big to bring a guy off the bench and get
buckets while Dwyane and Eddie Jones and those guys get a little
rest," said Udonis Haslem, who had 10 points and a game-high 10
rebounds for Miami. "For him to come off the bench and do what he
does best, it would be a great boost for us."
"They're getting ready for that playoff run," said Bobcats
rookie Emeka Okafor, who had eight points and nine rebounds.
"They're tightening up all their nuts and bolts. They were really
on target tonight."
Alonzo Mourning had 11 points and Eddie Jones 10 for Miami,
which delivered coach Stan Van Gundy's 100th regular-season
victory. Since a 5-15 start last season, Van Gundy's teams are
95-48 -- a .664 winning percentage.
Miami had 11 players log at least 14 minutes -- but no one played
more than 28 in the penultimate game of the regular season. The
Heat visit Orlando on Wednesday, then open the Eastern Conference
quarterfinals at home Sunday against either Cleveland, Philadelphia
or New Jersey.
"It was good to get everybody in there and some time," Van
Gundy said. "That was a real positive thing. But the more positive
thing was to play the game well and sharply. We didn't shoot it
particularly well, other than Rasual -- who was on fire."
Van Gundy expects to have O'Neal back for the playoff opener. He
missed his fourth game in the last seven, sidelined by a bruised
right thigh sustained in Sunday's win over Indiana. The team placed
him on the injured list before the game, ruling him out for the
finale in Orlando.
Butler had 13 points in the first half, helping the Heat take a
57-46 lead. Yet until the latter stages, Miami couldn't shake the
Bobcats -- the only Southeast team to defeat the Heat in 15
divisional games this season.
Ely scored with 9:26 left to bring the Bobcats within 81-73 --
but the Heat forced the Bobcats into missing 10 of their next 11
shots. Charlotte had its second-lowest point total in its last 18
"They are primed and ready for the playoffs," Charlotte coach
Bernie Bickerstaff said. "They did a good job on us defensively.
Their defense swarmed all night."
Miami went 35-6 at home, the second-best home mark in the NBA
Charlotte finished with a 4-37 road record. The last team to win
fewer road games was Cleveland, which went 3-38 away from home in
2002-03. Atlanta, which ends its season Wednesday in Philadelphia,
also has only four road wins this season.
O'Neal and Philadelphia wide receiver Terrell Owens chatted
after the game. Owens did not speak with reporters. ... Miami has
had four different scoring leaders in its last four games. ...
Miami had a 52-39 rebounding edge. ... San Antonio's 38-3 home mark
was the league's best, three games ahead of the Heat. ... Miami was
called for three technical fouls in the game's first 5:41; two for
defensive 3-second violations and another against Mourning.
Charlotte made one of the three free throws. ... Bobcats F Malik
Allen, the former Heat player who was sent to Charlotte earlier
this season for G Steve Smith, received a warm ovation from the
Miami crowd. ... Wright checked into the game with 3:30 left,
getting his second appearance of the season. He went 0-for-2, with
one rebound and one assist.