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Turning up the Heat

Miami tries to build on 1-0 lead against Detroit

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Posted: Tuesday April 25, 2000 10:31 AM

  Grant Hill and the Piston would love to go back to Detroit with the 1-1 split with Miami. AP

MIAMI (AP) -- Lessons learned by the Miami Heat in seasons past make them wary of tonight's playoff game against the Detroit Pistons.

Each of the past two years, the Heat began the playoffs by splitting two games at home, then went on to lose the opening best-of-5 series. They have a 1-0 lead against the Pistons, and Miami forward P.J. Brown said the potential pitfalls are obvious going into Game 2.

"If we don't get Game 2, it defuses what we did in Game 1 and gives them hope of going home to close us out," Brown said. "That's a situation we don't want to put ourselves in. So it's almost like Game 1 never happened."

The Pistons, trying to win with All-Star forward Grant Hill hobbled, would be delighted to salvage a split before returning to Detroit for Game 3 on Saturday.

"The goal," Hill said, "is to get one win down here."

Hill was limited to 13 points in Game 1, which Miami won 95-85.

He'll play again tonight despite a bone bruise in his left foot that has the Heat wary.

"We don't want to get caught up in looking at him hobbling around," Brown said. "He's still Grant Hill, and he's still a threat."

Trainers have spent 10 hours a day working on Hill's foot. He took only nine shots Saturday and struggled trying to defend Jamal Mashburn, who scored a playoff career-high 29 points.

"Maybe I can try to concentrate on my defensive rebounding and playing good defense," Hill said. "Maybe instead of trying to score 30 or 35 points a game, I need to keep my man from scoring 30 or 35."

Hardaway, who sat out Game 1 because of a sore left foot, has yet to rejoin practice and will likely rest at least until the Heat lose a game. That's one reason they want to win tonight.

Recent history is another motivator. In both 1998 and 1999, the favored Heat lost in five games to the New York Knicks after splitting the first two games in Miami.

Back-to-back off days have Riley worried about his team's focus, but center Alonzo Mourning doesn't expect a letdown.

"We've been together long enough, and we've had a lot of playoff experience as a team," he said. "We've had our butts kicked. We've been swept by Chicago. We've been pounded by New York. So what Detroit is presenting is not foreign to us."

The Heat, who won their fourth consecutive Atlantic Division title this year, figure their homecourt advantage might be more significant than in years past. Miami won a franchise-record 33 home games and went 23-5 at AmericanAirlines Arena, which opened for basketball Jan. 2.

"History has shown that sometimes the homecourt doesn't help you as much as it should," Brown said. "But at AmericanAirlines Arena, we've played a lot better than we did at Miami Arena, so we have confidence being at home."

The home team has won all five Miami-Detroit games this season. The Pistons' 15-27 road record is the worst of any Eastern Conference playoff team.

So a victory tonight would be a breakthrough for Detroit.

"We would like to have won two games in Miami," guard Jerry Stackhouse said. "But our goal is to come down here and steal one game. We still have an opportunity to accomplish that."


 
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