Less than two years after winning an NBA championship, the Miami Heat look like an aging team headed nowhere.
Just don't try telling that to 76ers coach Maurice Cheeks and his team. The Sixers will host the Heat at 6 o'clock tonight in their final game before departing for an 11-day, six-game trip that begins Friday at Sacramento.
Miami was 8-20 after yesterday's 96-82 loss to LeBron James and the host Cleveland Cavaliers.
"The Heat have been there before and understand what it takes," Cheeks said. "You can never underestimate them."
Heat center Shaquille O'Neal is off to the worst start of his career. Now in his 16th season, O'Neal, 35, entered yesterday's game averaging a career low of 14.4 points, and scored 13.
"I've seen Shaquille play and know the type of player he is and the type of pride he has," Cheeks said. "He never gives up on his game."
Sixers center Samuel Dalembert believes that O'Neal has plenty left in his tank. Listed at 7-foot-1 and 325 pounds, O'Neal still ranks among the strongest players in the NBA.
"He is so strong and makes you work so hard inside," Dalembert said. "People can say what they want about him, but Shaq can still drop 25 on you anytime."
Dalembert, who is averaging 11.1 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 2.6 blocked shots, will use his speed against O'Neal.
"I want to run the court and make him keep up with my pace," the Sixer said.
Miami has played better since Dwyane Wade, the three-time all-star guard, returned after missing the first seven games as a result of off-season surgery on his left knee and shoulder. The Heat went 1-6.
Wade entered yesterday's game averaging 24.3 points, and scored 22.
Tonight is the Sixers' latest home date in December since Dec. 30, 1978, when they hosted San Antonio.
They usually hit the road immediately after Christmas because the Wachovia Center has been hosting the
Disney on Ice
show since 1979. This year's
Disney on Ice High School Musical
will take place there from Friday through Jan. 6.
And Jan. 6 is the end of the Sixers' six-game trip, when they visit Allen Iverson and the Denver Nuggets.
Over the last week, the Sixers have talked about the importance of heading west with momentum. The first step came with Saturday's 99-97 win at Memphis.
"I think it's important for us to go on the West Coast trip on a winning streak and have good morale going out there," said guard-forward Andre Iguodala, who hit the winning 20-foot jumper at the buzzer against the Grizzlies.
Guard Willie Green is listed as day-to-day with a strained left groin. Green is third on the team in scoring, averaging 13.1 points.
Point guard Andre Miller has averaged 22 points, 5.8 assists and 2.6 turnovers in his last five games. Miller has looked for his shot more recently. This season, he has scored 20 or more points seven times, including four times in the last five games.
Last season, the Sixers were 3-1 against a Heat team that was swept in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs by the Chicago Bulls.
Stay updated with Sixers news, including a preview of tonight's game, on beat writer Marc Narducci's team blog at
See highlights from yesterday's NBA games on CineSport at
at 6 (CSN)