The Big Picture: If the Bobcats can knock off the Miami Heat tonight, in Miami, it will lead SportsCenter. It will prompt another round of "the Heat are overrated" punditry. And it will make the Cats' road to the playoffs slightly less daunting. In other words, this one's a biggie.
It seems that the teams who have beaten the Heat this year have done so by exploiting their weaknesses, while the Cats' won't be able to do that because their resources are stacked similarly, with clear one-on-one matchups. Gerald Wallace and LeBron James. Stephen Jackson and Dwyane Wade. Nazr Mohammed and Joel Anthony. Feel the star power. Their plan of attack almost certainly rests on Crash 'n Jax's ability to contain James and Wade, which, while exceptionally difficult, is possible and, dare I say, a challenge right in their wheelhouse.
On a more emotional (populist?) level, I want to see the Heat go down hard and be publicly ridiculed for their premature smugness. I mean, James, Wade, and Chris Bosh were up on a stage talking about multiple titles when one could look at rosters and wonder if they were clear favorites over the Magic or the Celtics in a seven-game series, or if they'd be favored over several Western Conference teams, for that matter.
The point is until they start signing MLE guys, or drafting well from the bottom of the first round, to fill out the roster, they're among the elite teams in the league, but hardly clear-cut championship favorites, let alone historically awesome harbingers of doom to their opponents.
The other emotional level to this, for me at least, involves a brief baseball story, so please excuse the indulgence. The last time I remember crying over the outcome of a sporting event was in 2003, when the Yankees beat the Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS. I'm not even a Red Sox fan, I understood that the Sox had spent enormous sums of money to try to catch the Yankees, and I realize I was being a bit of a drama queen, but my 20-year-old self couldn't accept the injustice of a narrative that resulted in the anointed superpower snatching victory away from an equally deserving unanointed foe, thus further entrenching the superpower's overwhelming sense of entitlement.
I don't think of sports quite the same way now, but it will feel damn good to stick it to the Heat and further deflate that entitlement, reminding them that even when championships are purchased, they still require the sweat and toil of assembly.
Musical Interlude: Glee (Darren Criss) -- "Teenage Dream"
Key to Victory: The temptation is to assess the Cats' role players' ability to make up whatever advantage James and Wade gain on Wallace and Jackson, especially since D.J. Augustin will likely be matched up against Carlos Arroyo for most of the game (until crunch time), and that's a matchup he can exploit in isolation.
However, I think a more likely path to victory lies in attacking James, Wade, and Bosh directly with our best players. That is, Wallace ought to be all over James at every opportunity. Jackson ought to be all over Wade. And Tyrus Thomas ought to start and get all over Bosh. Bring in Mohammed only if the Heat are willing to play Zydrunas Ilgauskas big minutes -- which they likely won't because that would mean sitting Udonis Haslem for long stretches. If they play Haslem and Bosh together, probably their best lineup, that would allow us to play our best lineup, with Boris Diaw alongside Thomas.
All that "maneuvering" would serve to pit our best defenders on their best offensive players and let them fight it out, which is probably our best chance to win, since we're not going to beat them in a shootout.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: Darren Criss, the dude who plays Blaine on Glee, went to my high school.