Miami Heat vs. Charlotte Bobcats: Five Things To Watch

Categories: Sports

Welcome back to the three most stressful months of your life, it's time to basketball. The NBA Playoffs have finally arrived and the Miami Heat are right where you expected them to be, firmly cemented as the odds-on favorite to repeat as World Champions. A less than dominant regular season has some wondering if the Heat can raise their level of play to the rare air they have lived in the past few years, but expecting anything less would be a mistake -- these are the back-to-back NBA Champions we are talking about, they own that air space.

First things first, the Charlotte Bobcats stand as the Heat's first test. During the Big Three Era the Heat are 16-0 versus Charlotte, although most of that came before the team added Al Jefferson this past summer. The Bobcats are the only NBA franchise that has never won a single playoff game. Needless to say, Charlotte is a gigantic underdog in this series.

The action tips-off today 3:30 p.m. on ABC. Here are a few things to watch for as the Miami Heat take their first steps in accomplishing the rare three-peat.

1. Is Wade ready to roll?
No more maintenance program, engines full throttle, all healthy limbs on deck. Coming off a season where he only played 53 games, including just six over the last month, Dwayne Wade enters the playoffs rested and ready to fight for the right to point to his jersey number as a representation of the number of championships the Heat have won in a row.

It seems as though some have mistaken Wade's absence as weakness this year, ignoring the fact that most of the 29 games he missed were pre-determined days off. When Wade did see the floor during the regular season, he was all-time efficient, finishing with a career high 54.5 percent field goal percentage. The Heat must juggle getting Wade and LeBron back accustomed to playing with one another, while at the same time making sure they don't sleep on the Bobcats so much they get caught slipping.

2. How will the Heat cope with Al Jefferson?
Don't let the Bobcats jersey fool you, Al Jefferson is a thing to worry about. Lost in LeBron James 61 point game versus the Bobcats this season was the fact that Jefferson tore up the Heat to the tune of 38 points and 19 rebounds. Jefferson averaged nearly 22 points and 11 rebounds on the year, and is as talented a big man as the Heat will face in the playoffs. Chris Bosh figures to match-up with Jefferson, with Udonis Haslem possibly taking on the task from time to time depending on the situation. Slowing down Al Jefferson would go a long way in making sure the series against the Bobcats is nothing more than a tune-up for bigger and better things. Letting him dominate the boards as he has against them in the past could lead to a harder than anticipated first round series.

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