With just 18 games left in the regular season we are going to start hearing those special two words that tend to pop up this time of year...playoff implications. Games like the one Miami is going to play tonight will get a little more attention because of how it may effect the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Thanks to their current little win streak, Miami now sits all alone in 7th place. 5th place Milwaukee is just a game and a half ahead of the Heat, and 6th place Toronto is just a game up. On the other side, the Heat have a slim half-game lead over 8th place Chicago and are a full game ahead of 9th place Charlotte, tonight's opponent. Later on this week the Heat will play Chicago as well, and I'm sure nobody knows as well as the Heat players that they hold their collective fate in their own hands.
The last time Miami hooked up with Charlotte the results weren't pretty. The Bobcats had already beaten the Heat down in Miami, and before the game Michael Beasley added fuel to the fire by saying "if we stay together and stay focused, it should be an easy win." Charlotte thanked Beasley and the Heat for the bulletin board material by beating them down thoroughly. The 39-point win was the most lop-sided in Bobcats history, and the 65 points they gave up to Miami were the fewest scored by an opponent in their history.
A win would be very beneficial for Miami because since the Bobcats have already beaten the Heat twice this year. A win tonight would clinch the season series for Charlotte, giving them the first tiebreaker should the teams finish the regular season with the same record. The 4th and final game between the teams will be a week from this Saturday (March 20th), at the AAA.
Hopefully the great showing by Michael Beasley against the Hawks on Saturday was a sign of things to come. Hopefully knowing that Dwyane Wade has his back but needs the youngster to step up will be the inspiration that Beasley has been lacking. It certainly worked on Saturday, when during a timeout in the 2nd half, Wade made it clear to Beasley exactly what he, and the team, needed.
Said Beasley, of Wade:
"He punched me in the chest and he was yelling, 'I need you. No more feeling sorry for yourself'."
- After leaving Saturday's game in the 1st half with a knee injury, Jermaine O'Neal is expected to return to the Heat's starting lineup tonight.
- The Heat are also expecting to get back Dorell Wright, who had to sit out when his surgically repaired left knee began to swell.
- Miami has lost five of its last six visits to Charlotte.
- The Bobcats have won three of their last four games at home, including wins over Cleveland and the Lakers.
- Quentin Richardson is coming off of back-to-back 20-point games for the first time this season. He shot 55.5% from the field in those two games, including 12 three-pointers.
Tipoff from Time Warner Cable Arena is set for 7pm. The Heat will see a different Bobcats team then the one that destroyed them in January. Charlotte added Tyrus Thomas and Theo Ratliff at the trade deadline, and will also have Tyson Chandler back in the lineup. Chandler missed all but 3 games between December 26th and March 3rd, including both games between the Bobcats and the Heat.