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
“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