The road to the Three-Peat starts here. The Miami Heat will start their quest to become the first team since the Larry Bird-led Celtics to appear in four consecutive NBA Finals.
Their playoff opponents will already be satisfied with just having qualified for the post-season.
The Charlotte Bobcats won just 10 percent of their games just two seasons ago and have had top-ten draft picks for the last half-decade as poor management, poorer trade manoeuvres and even worse draft acumen cost them dearly. In comparison, this has been a dream season.
The Heat, on the other hand, cannot be happy unless they recapture what they consider rightfully theirs. LeBron James has a shot to cement himself as the 1b to Michael Jordan’s 1a with his third title and Finals MVP in three years.
Charlotte’s success can be traced back to one trade. Al Jefferson may not move the needle particularly much in terms of fan interest but for the first time in franchise history the Cats had a guy they could call The Guy. Jefferson became the guy to go to for a score in the final seconds of a game and became the catalyst for the hugely improved chemistry in Charlotte.
Equally crucial was the hiring of Steve Clifford as head coach. Clifford has received nods for the Coach of the Year award and though he will be a long shot, the defensive gameplan and simple offense he has implemented has been executed to perfection, taking Charlotte from laughing stock to playoff-bound in just a few months.
Team Vs Team
There really is no comparison. LeBron James is the best player in the game and Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade give them the top one-two-three combo in the league. The Heat do need Wade’s health to maintain and the likes of Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Chris Andersen to provide timely contributions.
The Cats are a young team anchored by Jefferson’s experience. Kemba Walker is a threat from outside while Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can speed by defenders to cut inside.
Charlotte will be happy to win a game to extend this series and also would probably like to stop LeBron from scoring 61 points again.
Game 1: Heat 97, Bobcats 81 (11/16/13, Time Warner Cable Arena)
LeBron James scored 30 points on 13-for-18 from the floor on a night where Mario Chalmers and Ray Allen were out, Dwyane Wade was poor and Chris Bosh was in and out of the game with foul trouble.
Game 2: Bobcats 98, Heat 99 (12/1/13, American Airlines Arena)
Chris Bosh drained a game-winning three-pointer that rattled around the rim before dropping through to extend the Heat’s winning streak to ten games.
Game 3: Heat 104, Bobcats 96 (OT) (1/18/14, Time Warner Cable Arena)
LeBron James had an inefficient night, needing 25 shots to hit 34 points, though the Heat won in overtime, outscoring Charlotte 14-6 in the five minute period. The Heat’s winning streak reached 15 games.
Game 4: Bobcats 107, Heat 124 (3/3/14, American Airlines Arena)
LeBron James had the best game of his career, setting a career- and franchise-high with 61 points. James hit 22 of his 33 shot attempts including his first eight three-point attempts. He scored 24 points in the first half before pouring in 25 in the third quarter alone.
Game 1: Sunday, April 20th | at Miami | 3:30pm | ABC |
Game 2: Wednesday, April 23rd | at Miami | 7pm | TNT |
Game 3: Saturday, April 26th | at Charlotte | 7pm | ESPN |
Game 4: Monday, April 28th | at Charlotte | 7pm | TNT |
*Game 5: Wednesday, April 30th | at Miami | TBD |
*Game 6: Friday, May 2nd | at Charlotte | TBD |
*Game 7: Sunday, May 4th | at Miami | TBD |
* – if necessary.