MIAMI – The Heat have a busy week as they head into the heart of the holiday season.
Following Sunday’s game against the Celtics, Miami concludes this six-game home stand with games against Orlando and the Lakers before heading to New Orleans to face the Pelicans on Friday.
Here are three things to watch.
Shaq-a-Claus: Shaquille O’Neal’s number 32 will be retired Thursday with the Lakers in town, the team Pat Riley traded with during the summer of 2004 to acquire Shaq. Shaq spent 3 ½ seasons in Miami and teamed with Dwyane Wade to lead the Heat to their first title, in 2006. Shaq averaged 19.5 and 9.1 rebounds in a Heat uniform during the regular season. He also played in 40 postseason games with Miami with numbers nearly identical (18.8 points, 9.0 rebounds). He will become the third Heat player to have his number retired, joining Alonzo Mourning (No. 33) and Tim Hardaway (No. 10).
Back on the road: The Heat conclude their longest home stand of the season (six games) with Thursday’s game against the Lakers and then hit the road, playing the next night in New Orleans. The game against the Pelicans starts a stretch in which Miami plays 9-of-11 games on the road, concluding on Jan. 13. The Heat are 5-9 on the road, including wins on back-to-back nights this month at Denver and in Utah. Miami, though, should be much healthier for this trip than its last when it left behind five players at the start of a three-game trip that had them playing in Atlanta, Cleveland and Chicago.
Whiteside vs. Davis: The Heat get their first look at the man most believe to be the best big man in the NBA, the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis. The fourth-year center from Kentucky is second in the league with 29.6 points per game, ninth with 10.9 rebounds and leads league with 2.78 blocks. Whiteside is averaging 17.4 points, leads the league with 14.6 rebounds and is fourth with 2.32 blocks. In their only head-to-head game last season Davis had 29 points and 15 rebounds while Whiteside scored eight points and grabbed 17 rebounds.