Most people are writing off the Charlotte Bobcats, and they are probably right to do so. I see no way that the Miami Heat drop this series. I predicted a sweep. But, as I said on the podcast, it’s not about who can beat Miami when talking about potential first-round matchups, but who can give them the most trouble.
I believe the Bobcats could present a few difficult situations for Miami, though I think the Heat will overcome them and end up handling this series decisively. Still, here are a few things to watch for when this series tips off Sunday at 3:30 PM ET on ABC.
1. How the Heat handle Al Jefferson
Big Al had 38 points and 19 rebounds when LeBron scored his 61 points in the teams’ last meeting. The Heat have a couple of options in dealing with him.
First, they put Udonis Haslem on him. Haslem played just five minutes in that last game. Since then, Haslem has been inserted into the starting lineup and has done a good job defending opposing bigs, including Roy Hibbert.
The other option is fronting Jefferson with Chris Bosh. This has been the Heat’s go-to strategy in defending bigs the last couple of seasons. It keeps Bosh on the floor and defending bigs away from the basket.
I’d expect Miami to go with the former strategy at first, and experimenting with the smaller lineup throughout.
2. How much does Dwyane Wade play?
Coach Erik Spoelstra already said Wade will not be confined to any kind of minutes restriction. Still, , should the Heat find themselves up big over the Bobcats at the end of games, it would be wise to allow Wade to sit. However, Spo hasn’t necessarily done that this season.
Remember that the most important thing is how Wade plays, not how much.
3. Can the Heat get the three-ball going?
The Bobcats have a good defense, though. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Chris Douglas-Roberts are plus perimeter defenders with three names. If the Heat want to use this series to “flip the switch,” those guys could make it tough.
4. Will Greg Oden play?
Oden won’t be a starter this series, and I’m not sure he even plays. Oden is very much a liability on both ends of the court. What he adds is inches and pounds between opposing bigs and the basket, that is, when he maintains position between opposing bigs and the basket (which has been a struggle).
He is bringing down contested rebounds at a lower rate than Battier, per SportsVU data, and his offensive game is limited to standing dunks.
Haslem and Chris Andersen have been more positive than Oden. I don’t see a reason that Oden should play at all this series. If he needs to come in, that’s not a good sign for the Heat.
5. Do they Heat sweep?
I see no reason they shouldn’t. The 82 games the Heat played before this one have all been in preparation for these playoffs.
All the rest and maintenance programming would be for not should the Heat not get up and go now that the playoffs have begun.
Miami is a much better team than Charlotte, and anything more than four games would be disappointing.