After a week-long drought, the Miami Heat (28-11) finally returned to their winning ways with a 101-86 victory over the hapless Philadelphia 76ers. Another perennial doormat, the Charlotte Bobcats, awaits in the second game of a back-to-back. The only problem is that this Charlotte team (17-24) is much better than previous incarnations and this will be the fifth game of a six-game road trip for Miami.
The Heat were able to establish their brand of basketball Friday night, playing stingy defense, forcing turnovers and transitioning into fast-break opportunities all game long. Still, it is difficult to judge how much of that victory was the result of improved Miami play or the low-quality performance of young Sixers team. And despite winning the previous two matchups versus the Bobcats, the previous game was a 99-98 thriller that required some long-range shooting from Chris Bosh to seal the comeback victory.
Charlotte is led by Kemba Walker, the third-year guard out of the University of Connecticut. Speedy, athletic and not afraid to take it to the hoop, Walker’s per game averages are 19 points, 5 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals. Former Utah Jazz big man Al Jefferson leads the team with nearly 10 boards a game, to go with 17.6 points. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, back in the lineup after a hand injury, can provide solid defense, something this Bobcat team will sorely need to earn a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Tip-off will take place Saturday at 7:30 P.M. at the Time-Warner Cable Arena. Check back with AllUCanHeat for a recap after the game.
The Big Three Questions for the Game:
Do you Expect Dwyane Wade to Play?
Yes, I do. Despite being the second game of a back-to-back, foul trouble limited Wade to only 25 minutes in Friday’s contest. Dwyane has shown he’s capable of playing in consecutive nights and after a weak outing on his 32nd birthday, he might want to show that the “old man” is capable of bringing it at a high level. If he is shut down as part of the season-long maintenance program, perhaps newly-acquired guard Toney Douglas (who has yet to suit up as a Heat player) might be available to provide some minutes as a backup.
Will Oden Play?
Why do you keep asking that? Oh, wait…is it because Oden’s recent comeback was the brightest moment of week-long losing streak? Is it because seeing G.O. slam the ball with authority gives Miami fans hope that they’ll contend with paint-clogger Roy Hibbert? Yeah, that’s probably it. And the answer is “no,” I don’t expect to see him play tonight, either. He was active against the Sixers because Chris Andersen is still nursing sore knees but I wouldn’t expect Oden to be rushed into action, especially with a team that isn’t particularly dominant inside like Charlotte. But I’ve been wrong before…
Is This Charlotte Team for Real?
Yes and no. This is probably the best Bobcats team they’ve put together in the franchise’s history but that is hardly something to cheer. And, while they currently hold the eight spot in the Eastern Conference standings, they are still seven games under .500. The reality is they’re still a player or two away from becoming legitimate contenders. Free agent Jefferson has not lived up to the bloated contract awarded to him this summer but, unless a major deal is swung by the February NBA trade deadline, expect the once-and-future Hornets to continue being consistently mediocre.