NBA Playoffs Preview: Miami Heat vs. Charlotte Bobcats

How Miami Got Here: Miami got to the second seed in the Eastern Conference on the back of LeBron James, some good coaching, championship experience and a super-quick start to the season. Notice that there is no mention of Dwyane Wade, Dwyane Wade’s knees, the bench, or the home crowd. Sorry to those that this will offend. On January 1st the Heat were 24-7. Take note of that record.

Mar 3, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson (25) is defended by Miami Heat center Chris Bosh (1) in the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

How Charlotte Got Here: Charlotte will be making their second postseason appearance in the franchise’s history, which is a nice little going away present for the Bobcats before they become the Hornets again and bring back the all-time great Purple and Teal uni’s. It’s pretty easy to figure out how Charlotte ended up with the 7th seed in the East; if you employ one of the top ten MVP candidates, play in a crappy conference, fill out the roster with reasonably good role players and play above-average defense, you’ll probably be able to lock down a playoff spot. Enter the Bobcats, who on January 1st were 14-18. Take note of that record.

The Miami Heat ended the season with a 54-28 overall record. Charlotte was 43-39. That means over the last three and a half months of the season, Miami was 30-21 and Charlotte was 29-20. Go ahead and call this a lopsided matchup if you’d like, but these two teams are dead even since the calendar turned to 2014.

Players to watch
I’ll refrain from going with the all-to-obvious answer of LeBron James, and instead focus on the matchup down low. How will Miami handle Al Jefferson? Jefferson terrorized the Heat this season, averaging 25 points and 15 boards in his three games against the defending champs. I’d expect that Miami would make it a point to double team Big Al and make some of Charlotte’s unproven perimeter players beat them, but what do I know.

In addition, it will be interesting to see what sort of contribution Dwyane Wade makes, both in impact and actual time on the court. Wade missed 28 games this season, the most since LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined the team in the summer of 2010. Even though he’s played in the last three games, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he were to miss a game or two in this series.

Why each team could win
Although it’s unlikely that Charlotte will knock off the two-time defending champs, it’s not at impossibility. To win, the Bobcats would need an otherworldly performance from Jefferson, something along the lines of 30 points and 15 rebounds every game. They’d also need to find some way to contain the presumed MVP runner-up, LeBron. At the very least, they can’t allow him to drop 61 points again. That’s a recipe for disaster. On top of that, the Heat would need to get minimal production from Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade (not an impossibility) and absolutely nothing from their bench (don’t rule this out). Factor in Kemba magic and some nicely timed MJ barbs towards the Big Three, and things might get interesting.

In all likelihood though, Miami comes into the series refocused to a certain degree and handles their business like they need to. Remember, fatigue is going to set in for the Heat eventually. Since they came together in 2010 they’ve played 379 combined regular season and postseason games… that’s a lotttttttt of basketball. The Heat are going to have some serious battles in the later rounds of the postseason, so they can’t afford to mess around against a lesser opponent. I’ve got Miami winning 4-1.