Heat-Bobcats Preview

Just when the Miami Heat appeared vulnerable, they’ve surged and

again look like one of the league’s best teams.

Wednesday night’s game in Charlotte appears to be a mismatch as

the Bobcats try to snap a 15-game losing streak overall and an

eight-game skid against the Heat.

The Heat lost three of five from Dec. 4-12, one of which was

only the second of three wins this season for Washington. Miami

(19-6) has won five straight since that rough patch, with the first

four coming by an average of 18.0 points.

Though if there’s an opportunity for the Bobcats to sneak up on

the Heat, Wednesday might be it.

Miami will be playing for the second straight night after a

grueling 103-97 win over Oklahoma City on Christmas. The NBA Finals

rematch left LeBron James saying he was “tired as hell” more than

an hour after finishing with 29 points, nine rebounds and eight

assists to help the franchise match its best 25-game start. James

has scored at least 20 in his last 30 regular-season games and in

46 games overall.

The Heat needed a couple of unlikely performances – 19-for-19

team free-throw shooting and a season-high 20 points from Mario

Chalmers – to ensure the win.

“I got going early,” Chalmers said. “And I stuck with it.”

Charlotte (7-20) initially showed promise after last year’s 7-59

debacle with a 7-5 start to the season, but a 110-88 loss at Denver

on Saturday marked the team’s 15th straight defeat. The Bobcats

lost the final 23 games of last season, and the league record is

Cleveland’s 26 from two years ago.

They allowed 99.6 points per game through their first 12

contests – not an elite mark but substantially better than their

league-worst 109.4 since then. Opponents have particularly exposed

Charlotte on the interior, with the Nuggets scoring 78 points in

the paint.

“We’re a young team,” said leading scorer Kemba Walker, who is

averaging 18.3 points. “We’ve got a few vets, but our core group is

really young. Losing is one of the hardest things you can ever go

through, especially losing as many as we’ve lost. But at the same

time, you’ve got to keep your chin up. You’ve got to know that

these losses will turn into wins one day.”

Recent injuries make matters worse for the Bobcats. Ben Gordon

(right knee soreness) and Gerald Henderson (bruised shin), who

combined to average 26.5 points, could return Wednesday, but Byron

Mullens is expected to miss significant time because of an ankle

sprain he sustained in the final moments Saturday. Mullens is

averaging 11.6 points and a team-high 7.8 rebounds.

Miami won the three meetings last season by an average of 21.0

points, and hasn’t lost to the Bobcats since March 9, 2010.

Chris Bosh, a career 19.7 per game scorer, is averaging 24.0

points lifetime against Charlotte, his highest average against any