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Oden’s play encouraging sign for the Heat, but Wade sitting is not

The Heat's LeBron James drives to the basket against Boston's Gerald Wallace during Tuesday night's game in Miami.
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

In addition to the result, the Miami Heat got some other good out of Tuesday night’s 93-86 victory over the Boston Celtics.

Center Greg Oden, who the team hopes will eventually give the Heat needed muscle inside when the playoffs begin, made his third appearance in a week and hit a field goal, grabbed a rebound, and blocked a shot in less than six minutes on the floor.

In 19 minutes spread over the three games, he has scored nine points on 3-of-6 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 from the free throw line, gathered in three rebounds, blocked one shot, and charged with only one turnover.

It’s not like he’s going to be playing significantly more minutes any time soon -- the plan is to continue to bring him along slowly as he recovers from the knee injuries that kept him out of the game since 2009 -- but it is encouraging.

But there was some not-so-good out of the game as well, more than just the 18-point lead they eventually lost before scoring the last nine points of the game to pull out the win.

Guard Dwyane Wade missed his third consecutive game because of balky knees. In all, Wade has missed 12 games this season, all but one because of those knees.

He has played on consecutive nights only twice, the last time earlier this month when he played 36 minutes in a win over Orlando on Jan. 4 and 35 in a win over Toronto the next night.

But he has made only four appearances in the Heat’s eight games since then, and there is no indication of when he might return. The Heat’s next game is Thursday night when the Los Angeles Lakers come to Miami (TNT, 8 p.m. ET).

Wade has not been the only Heat starter to miss games for injuries or illness this season.

In fact, the Heat have had their preferred starting lineup of Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Shane Battier, and Mario Chalmers for only 16 games of their 42 games. They are 13-3 in those outings, a .813 winning percentage that would project out to a 67-15 finish for the regular season.

Last season the Heat were 66-16.

Though you likely wouldn’t know it from the consternation that has been raised in some corners about their four-game deficit behind the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference, the Heat actually are slightly ahead of last season’s pace.

After 42 games in 2012-13, they were 29-13. With the win over the Celtics, they are 30-12 in 2013-14.

The difference is, of course, is that over the second half of last season the Heat went on a 27-game winning streak to and won 37 of their final 40 regular-season games.

With all that has been ailing them this time around, especially in a January stretch that has seen them go only 6-5 in 11 games, such a winning streak isn’t very likely, or, possibly even desired.

But keeping that winning streak going may just have taken a toll on the Heat that left them a drained, not so much physically but mentally, when the playoffs began.

After sweeping the Milwaukee Bucks in three games in the first round and beating an injury-depleted Chicago Bulls team in five games in the second, the Heat went to the seven-game limit both against the Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals and against the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals.

And they were fortunate against the Spurs, who were a play away from closing out the Heat in six games before Ray Allen’s tying 3-pointer that send the game to overtime.

So finishing second to the Pacers in the East isn’t all that steep a price to pay if the result is that the Heat go into the playoffs a relatively healthy, well-rested team.

Nobody in the East is in position to challenge them for the No. 2 seed in the conference.