With less then a week left until the NBA's regular season comes to a close, there are some playoff-bound teams that are now able to exhale a bit and start physically and mentally preparing for the postseason while sort-of coasting through the end of their schedule. Miami will get no such luxury, at least not as long as they are going after the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Following their loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday that was as baffling as it was nauseating, the Heat had lost the ability to control their own destiny and suddenly it felt like a dark cloud had been cast over their 2nd place ambitions. That was until last night when the Chicago Bulls took down the Boston Celtics, dropping them back into a tie with the Heat and putting Miami right back in the driver seat.
Once again, Erik Spoelstra's club will be responsible for their own fate. With 4 games left on the docket, the Heat will finish in 2nd place in the East if they win out. It's amazing how much can change in 24 hours, but now that awful loss to the Bucks can be used as one hell of a motivational tool and might just provide Miami with a little extra push that could make all the difference.
The Heat will put their 2nd chance to the test tonight when the struggling Bobcats come to town. Charlotte had been in postseason contention all season but when the calendar flipped over to March they began to quickly fade out of the playoff picture. A 6-game losing streak led to the Bobcats dropping 14 of their last 20, and their overtime loss to Orlando on Wednesday officially eliminated them from the playoff race.
Charlotte has been without leading scorer Stephen Jackson for 4 straight games, all losses. He is suffering from a sore left hamstring and while he was expected to return against the Magic on Wednesday, Jackson told coaches that he couldn't play after trying to give it a go during warmups, and he is considered a game-time decision tonight.
Meanwhile, the Heat are hopeful that they'll get Dwyane Wade back in the lineup tonight after he missed Wednesday's loss to Milwaukee. Wade is full of optimism because the pain in his right thigh has subsided and while he didn't practice with his teammates on Thursday, he did some on-court workouts before and after the session. The plan is to test the injured thigh at this morning's shootaround.
- The Bobcats have gone 3-10 in their last 13 visits to Miami.
- The Heat is 3-0 against Charlotte this season, winning each game by at least 8 points.
- Miami has won 11 of their last 14 games while the Bobcats have lost 4 straight.
- In his career Chris Bosh has averaged 24.1 points against Charlotte, his highest against any team.
- This season LeBron James is averaging 29.7 points in 3 games against the Bobcats.
- Udonis Haslem (foot) is out for Miami while Dwyane Wade (thigh) is questionable.
- As for Charlotte, Joel Przybilla (knee) and DeSagana Diop (Achilles) are out. Eduardo Najera (back), Shaun Livingston (tailbone), Tyrus Thomas (knee) and Stephen Jackson (hamstring) are all doubtful.
Tipoff from the AAA is set for 7:30. For those of you wondering, the Celtics also play tonight, hosting the Washington Wizards; that game also begins at 7:30. While it looks like Miami and Boston are going to finish 2nd and 3rd in the East, it also seems that the Sixers and the Knicks are going to finish 6th and 7th. That being the case, Heat fans can look forward to facing either Philadelphia or New York in the 1st round of the playoffs.