Previewing Game 3 of the Heat-Bobcats first-round series.
1. Where We Are: The Miami Heat are up 2-0 in the series, which is where they should be heading back to Charlotte. However, it hasn't been all that easy for them to accomplish. The first game of the series ended up looking like more of a blowout than it actually was. The Heat pulled away in the second half, being able to capitalize on Al Jefferson's foot injury he was able to play through but limits his effectiveness immensely. In the second game, the Heat had a battle for the full 48 minutes and sort of escaped with a victory on their home floor.
Jefferson gave the Bobcats 18 points, but needed 23 shots to get those points. He led a great effort on the offensive boards for the Bobcats. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 22 points and provided a real threat moving toward the basket the Heat seemed unprepared to defend. And while Kemba Walker did a good job of running the offense, he needed 18 shots to score 16 points. For the Heat, LeBron James was simply the best player in the world and overpowered and outplayed the Bobcats whenever they needed to stop runs. He had 32 points, six rebounds, eight assists, and four steals with it largely looking effortless.
2. The Big Number: 55.9. That's the effective field goal percentage for the Heat in the first two games of this series. It's the best effective field goal percentage of the playoffs by any team so far and it's coming against a really good defensive team. It seems like the Bobcats are finding ways to contest shots and possibly get the Heat away from doing what they like to do with ball movement. However, the Heat are just so good at making shots and their superior talent is shining through. They've made a ridiculous 76.3 percent of their shots in the restricted area (best in the playoffs) and they're shooting 43.5 percent from downtown (also best in the playoffs so far). Bobcats are playing solid defense but the Heat are just better.
3. Key Adjustment: Find a way to fix Al Jefferson's foot. There's not much the Bobcats can do when their best player and offensive focal point is hobbling up and down the court. The Bobcats can't push the tempo against the Heat unless they're running off of turnovers. They aren't great at spreading the floor because they don't have shooters to stretch the Heat defense. And you can't necessarily slow the game down too much because the Heat's defense is good enough to stifle the Bobcats' attack. They really need Jefferson to be as healthy as possible here to start the inside-out attack.
4. The Big Story: How much rest do the Heat want? We may go the distance or close to the distance with the three other series in the East, meaning the Heat sweeping a Bobcats' team would give them some advantageous rest in the first round. Will the Bobcats' arena be enough to pump up the team and bring that extra edge to taking a game from Miami? Or will the Heat take care of business and put Charlotte down 0-3 in the series?
5. The Facts: 7:00 p.m. ET. Al Jefferson will play with his foot injury. Michael Beasley is questionable with an ankle injury.