Oden Rocks, Heat Roll As Streak Reaches Seven

The Heat have four almost certain Hall of Famers and a bunch of experienced role players on their roster, but theirs is not the perfect team yet.

There’s still that matter in the middle, the one that offers a sliver of hope to the rest of the  league.

So while the three-headed monster of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 61 points in a 112-98 rout of the Orlando Magic on Saturday night, perhaps the best thing to come out of AmericanAirlines Arena was the play of a reserve big man who could become a factor before long.

Remember Greg Oden, the former No.  1 pick in the draft?

In the first half, Oden scored a season-high eight points and grabbed three rebounds in eight minutes, another step forward on the long road back from knee problems. Michael Beasley (eight points, three blocked shots) also made a good impression off the bench, as the Heat stretched their win streak to seven in a row.

“I’m happy to be on the team,” Oden said. “When I get a chance to play, I just don’t want to mess up.”

Oden played five minutes in the second half, as head coach Erik Spoelstra stayed true to the plan.

“The biggest victory for Greg Oden is the fact that he’s available and in uniform,” Spoelstra said. “We continue to want to be disciplined to the patience of this (process).  He has put in a great deal of work just to get to this point.

“You see what he brings to the table, the size and the athleticism. He does not lumber up and down the court. And he’s a smart, heady player who has picked up our system in a short period of time.”

James switched from a black mask to a transparent one at the request of league officials, but the results weren’t much different. He finished with 20 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals in only 31 minutes.

Teammate Chris Bosh referred to James as Batman after the game two days earlier but called him “just a regular citizen of Gotham” this time.

“It’s getting better every day,” James said of his broken nose. “It’s still tender, obviously, (the injury) not even being a little over a week, so I’m going to continue to wear the protective mask until I feel like my nose is ready. But it doesn’t stop me from doing what I normally do.”

The Heat toyed with the other team in Florida for one quarter before they laid down the hammer. Wade (24 points) converted a pair of free throws to break a 33-all tie early in the second period, and the homeboys coasted the rest of the way.

“We were a little bit spotty in the first quarter,” Spoelstra said. “Probably the first 14 or 15 minutes, we were sparring more than we were really competing and trying to impose our game on them. After that, we were very active and aggressive on offense again.”

The last-place Magic got a strong performance from Nikola Vucevic (18 points, 10 rebounds) and more hope in the next draft lottery.

Said James, one of three starters who played limited minutes, “When you come out and take care of business, that’s a reward.”