Going by name and reputation alone, the Miami Heat facing the Charlotte Bobcats in a playoff series sounds like a sweep waiting to happen, but the NBA champions, even with Dwyane Wade playing next to LeBron James, are more fragile than ever, while the addition of Al Jefferson to the improving Kemba Walker has turned the Bobcats into a very tough team to beat without taking away from their defensive strengths.
The Heat as a second seed is slightly surprising. Not just because of the preseason expectations, but because after beating Indiana in the fourth game between the two teams this season they completely gave up on the top spot, or couldn’t cope with coming off the effort and focus they used to beat the Pacers and claim the top spot in the East. That’s the most worrying thing about Miami: Consecutive, short span effort suddenly looking like a hard thing for this team.
LeBron James is the team’s best player, no doubt. But… Chris Bosh might be the guy they can’t afford to have off the court, having the biggest +/- differential between his minutes on and off the court. Bosh is averaging 16.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game – not numbers that make you think of an indispensable player. But he is the Heat’s only big man that can stretch the floor, which means the world in their offensive system, even though it gets stuck in half court offense too many times.
LeBron James led the team in points (27.1), assists (6.6) and rebounds (6.9) during the regular season. He had his career-high against the Bobcats and averaged 37.8 points against them, with Miami winning all four times. Dwyane Wade will be playing in the postseason, which means things being a lot more simpler for Miami, but their issues in moving the ball and moving on defense, with only the 11th best defensive efficiency in the NBA is something to worry about.
Al Jefferson gets the points and the job done for the Bobcats but it has been their defense, giving up only 100.5 points per 100 possessions in the regular season (5th in the NBA) that seems like it might be the key for Charlotte. Forcing the Heat into a slow game and avoiding too many fast breaks and transition possessions is essential because the Bobcats are a bad 3-point shooting team, which is usually a great way to beat the Heat or at least make them look very bad.
Predictions – The Heat swept the season series but something tells us the playoffs will be a bit more difficult, and the Bobcats are going to take a game away from the defending NBA champions, making things seem a bit closer.