Heat-Bobcats Preview


Following wins in two rivalry games to open the season, the Miami Heat now look to continue their fast start when they visit the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night.

The Heat have trailed just once in two season-opening victories – by only two points for 14 seconds. On Christmas Day, Miami got a small measure of revenge against Dallas, roughing up the Mavericks 105-94 and ruining the reigning champions’ banner-raising celebration. The Heat beat Boston 115-107 on Tuesday, hanging on after nearly blowing a 20-point lead.

LeBron James scored 26 and rookie Norris Cole had 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter for the Heat, who look to open 3-0 for the second time in three seasons.

“He’s earned their respect,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Cole, who attended Cleveland State. “Even though it’s been a short period of time, about three weeks, because he’s pure, he’s all about the team. He’s mature … and he gets them the ball. You’re always a popular guy when you find people when they’re open.”

Cole, drafted in the first round by Chicago and eventually traded to Miami in a series of draft-night moves, knocked down three jumpers in the final quarter and sealed the victory with two free throws with under 10 seconds remaining.

“We have confidence in whoever’s on the floor at that time,” James said. “For him to make those shots and come up big in a game like that, give credit to him.”

Miami now hits the road to face a team it has dominated recently. The Heat have won five in a row over Charlotte. Overall, the Heat have won six straight on the road, including Sunday’s win over Dallas. They went 28-13 last season away from home.

Charlotte beat Milwaukee 96-95 on Monday in its season opener. D.J. Augustin scored 19 points and rookie Kemba Walker added 13 in his NBA debut. Both point guards were on the floor at the end of the game and combined to score the last seven Bobcat points as Charlotte erased a 14-point second-half deficit.

A similar performance will be needed to top the Heat, who won all four matchups last season.

“I’d like to see how we do against a team like that,” Bobcats coach Paul Silas said. “Can we stay competitive and not get blown away? I think if we do that we will have a chance to really improve. But it’s tough to keep a team like that down. They’re just so talented it’s unbelievable.”

Augustin sprained his left ankle in the final minute of Monday’s game. He didn’t practice Tuesday but expects to face the Heat.

“I watched them play on Christmas and they look like they have a chip on their shoulder,” Augustin said. “We know they have a great team, so we have to come in and play hard like we did (against the Bucks).”

Charlotte has started 2-0 just once in franchise history, in 2007-08. These teams meet again Sunday in Miami.