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NBA best Heat win 66th time, topping Magic

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Associated Press
4/17/2013 10:58:53 PM
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MIAMI -- Dwyane Wade successfully lobbied to play in Miami's regular-season finale, saying he wanted to get a little more work in before the playoffs begin this weekend.

He looked more than ready for another post-season run.

Wade scored 21 points and handed out 10 assists, Mike Miller added 21 points and the Miami Heat wrapped up the regular season with a 105-93 win over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night.

Orlando finished with the NBA's worst record, 20-62.

Miami (66-16) became the 14th team in NBA history to finish with a winning percentage over .800. The Heat have home-court advantage throughout the NBA playoffs and will open their quest for a second straight championship on Sunday against the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference first-round series.

"Awesome," Wade said. "It's great. It's a testament to the team being committed and being very consistent all year."

The Heat were without LeBron James, who was away from the team for the day while tending to a personal matter and almost certainly would not have played even if he was in the arena anyway. Chris Bosh was in the first starting lineup the Heat submitted Wednesday, before the team changed course about 45 minutes before game time and decided to give him the night off as well.

"We still have time to get into this mentally," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Juwan Howard scored 12 points in the 900th start of his career, while Rashard Lewis scored 16 points and Ray Allen scored 10 for Miami.

The Heat finished 37-4 at home, and not long after putting together a 27-game winning streak -- the second-longest run in NBA history -- the defending champs head into the post-season having won a league-best eight in a row.

"Now we start the real thing," Wade said.

Nik Vucevic had 20 points and 13 rebounds for Orlando. Only once have the Magic won fewer games in a season -- their inaugural year, going 18-64 in 1989-90.

"This was a learning experience for most of us," Vucevic said. "We're young guys. It wasn't easy with a lot of losses. It wasn't always fun but we can take a lot from the season."

The Heat surely won't mind not seeing Vucevic again until next fall. In three games against Miami this season, Vucevic -- who arrived in Orlando as part of the Dwight Howard trade last summer -- finished with 65 points and 63 rebounds, getting double-doubles in every outing.

"It's not a fluke," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "He's done it on a consistent basis for us. And he's improved ... he's gotten better along the way."

Tobias Harris scored 19, Beno Udrih scored 12, Andrew Nicholson scored 12, E'Twaun Moore had 11 and Maurice Harkless finished with 10 for the Magic.

"I'm thankful for being here, for the organization, the coaches, the fans," Harris said. "I just look forward to grow from it and come back next year even more ready. ... We're just building on everything to be a better team."

Wade has been sidelined for much of the past couple weeks while recovering from bone bruises around his right kneecap. He announced about an hour before the game that he would play, citing a need to improve his conditioning before Game 1 of the post-season.

Without James and Bosh in the lineup, he was the clear go-to guy, and responded with 17 first-half points -- his most since late February.

Orlando, which has known for some time that its season was ending with the final whistle of this game, hardly seemed like a team eager to start its summer vacations. The Magic shot 57 per cent in the first half, outplayed Miami for some stretches and went into intermission down just 55-47.

"I've asked a lot of these guys," Vaughn said.

The Magic cut the lead to one point on a pair of occasions in the third, before the Heat closed the quarter on a 16-7 run. And that burst came after Wade checked out for the last time in his 10th regular season.

Wade's final shot was a reverse layup, and he appeared to be limping slightly afterward -- though he insisted postgame that he was fine, just working his way through the last of the bruising. The Heat took no more chances, getting Wade out of the game at the next stoppage and having trainer Jay Sabol strap icepacks to each of his knees.

And when the last horn went off, the playoffs -- and a chance for another title -- had finally arrived in Miami.

"Regular-season games are there for a reason, and that's to improve and get better and we think we accomplished that," Spoelstra said. "It will be different. We'll never be the underdog. And that's the way it should be. Our guys accept that responsibility and they know we'll have to prove it every single night."

A year ago, the big question entering the playoffs was whether Miami was good enough to win it all. This season, it seems like the rest of the league is waiting to see who might give the Heat a challenge.

"I'll be tuned in," Vaughn said. "I'll watch."

NOTES: Juwan Howard's start total ranks him 14th among active players (a list that excludes Rasheed Wallace, the veteran who retired earlier Wednesday). ... Allen and James are now part of a very small group -- those who have been part of 66-win seasons with two different franchises, with others in that club including Wilt Chamberlain, Robert Parish, Devean George, Ron Harper and John Salley. ... The Magic finished 46 games behind Miami in the Southeast Division standings.

Dwyane Wade (Photo: Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images)
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