In a curious move, Miami extended the effort to defeat Indiana last week to claim the top seed in the East, only to lose their last three contests and fall to No. 2 in conference standings. This would in all likelihood mean the Heat would have to win the East Finals and the NBA Finals without the benefit of the home court. But that is getting ahead of ourselves, let’s breakdown this series.
Miami Has to Bring the Heat Early
Coach Erik Spoelstra decided the big picture was more important than the home court advantage. Dwayne Wade missed better than a quarter of the season (27 games) resting his battered knees. LeBron James and Chris Bosh did not play with the same defensive intensity of the past three seasons, seemingly trying to conserve energy while playing.
After being no worse than fifth in field goal percentage defense the prior three seasons, Miami slipped all the way to 16th this season. They were less reliant on proper positioning and instead went for steals and manufacturing points of miscues.
LeBron James was asked carry the load this season and as it was written this week in an ESPN Insider article by Tom Haberstroth; will James have enough in the tank to help carry his team to the finish line again?
In this series, Spoelstra cannot outwardly speak in terms of crushing Charlotte, but given how he tried to save Wade, he will have to get the message across that his team is superior and the quicker the Heat dismiss the Bobcats, the more rest for everyone.
This includes being sharp from the opening jump ball and attempting to overwhelm Charlotte, allowing them to substitute liberally in the fourth quarter, especially in the first two home games where they will be at or near double digit favorites. If Miami goes through the motions and has to play an extended series, this will influence those making sports picks done the road.
This Carolina Crew is Hot
Kudos to Charlotte for making the playoffs for the second time in their nine-year existence and while they are given almost zero chance, anyone would be impressed with 16-6 (15-7 ATS) finish.
NBA basketball handicappers acknowledge the brilliance of point guard Kemba Walker and forward Al Jefferson has been an absolute beast (26 points – 13 boards) the last 10 games.
Walker has the ability to make life miserable for his counterpart Mario Chalmers and if Spoelstra has to go out his way to contain the ‘Cats point guard, this series might take longer than expected for those making NBA picks.
Series Odds and
The betting odds have Miami as ginormous -2000 favorites to take the series. The Heat won all four meetings (3-1 ATS) by an average of 10.5 points per game. The last three contests were all Over’s, which would appear how Miami would want to turn up the heat and force the playoff strangers into a panic.
It’s time for Chris Bosh to elevate his game and show the playoff intensity of the past. D-Wade probably does not need to be at his best, but he and his teammates have to have an inkling of what to expect down the road. Miami should be able to make whatever adjustments are necessary.
While Charlotte did not beat the Heat, they have two elements to put the heat back on the two-time champs. Walker can breakdown any defender on the Miami roster except for James and with no real shot-blocking presence, his forays to the tin could be largely unimpeded.
The way Jefferson has been playing if his confidence continues, he a matchup Spoelstra might not have any easy answer for.
When considering the NBA odds, if Miami wants to get this over in a hurry, they can in four, with potentially one really difficult game, the first at Charlotte. If the Heat lollygags, they might have to return home for a Game 5 to close out the series.
NBA Basketball Series Free Pick: Miami in four