Why can't the Bobcats just play the Milwaukee Bucks 82 times per year and finish the season with an average win differential of about +25? Oh, right, life isn't fair. See, I forgot that until I looked at the schedule and saw the Heat on the schedule. Of course, they're playing in the road and on a Sunday after spending a Saturday night in Miami. I mean, last time these two teams met, it was in Charlotte and the Heat still won by 16. Here's the plan: LIGHTS OUT BY 9:00pm AND TURN IN YOUR CELLPHONES.
Not happening? Okay, fine.
At first glance, you think the Heat may have lost a step at second place in the Eastern Conference behind the 14-1 Indiana Pacers. While the Pacers' plan of attack is much more like a slow and steady pummeling into submission, the Heat operate as a swift tactical strike unit designed to get the job done as quickly as possible. The Heat are a top five offensive and defensive team whose strengths directly oppose the Bobcats, which doesn't exactly make this a game to look forward to. The 'Cats rank either last or second-to-last in field goal percentage, three point percentage and free throw percentage, while the Heat are league leaders in those categories. Additionally, they're third in the league in free throws to field goals attempted (FT/FGA) and 23rd in FT/FGA against. On the bright side, the Bobcats compare favorably on the offensive end but are below average in FT/FGA against. Seeing how often they can get to the line and keep the Heat off of the line will be something to keep an eye on.
However, it's not just the juxtaposition of offensive abilities that make this a less than desirable matchup for the Bobcats. Miami forces the highest percentage of turnovers per 100 possessions (Or "Turnover Percentage," whatever) and while the Bobcats have taken good care of the ball this season, there will be a greater importance placed on this tonight since the Heat have shown that they will turn those into points. This is really how the Heat do it: force turnovers and use a series of runs off of those until their opponents give in. It's a quicker death than, say, playing the Pacers, but it's still death.
Really, the Bobcats' chances for success hinge on executing the fundamentals: get stops, protect the ball and take (read: make) good shots, especially free throws. This is in addition to do what they already do well, and that is rebounding. Which will be especially important since the Heat don't leave too many rebounds out there with their high-level shooting and the Bobcats tend to leave quite a few more, considering their shooting woes. Of course, take care of the ball and control the glass and you can control the game, which will be easier said than done against the Heat.
While the odds may be long against the Bobcats tonight, they are at least no longer impossible, as they were the last couple of seasons. Now we at least have hope for a competitive game and maybe the possibility of being a legitimate trap game for Miami. Sure, it won't be easy, but stranger things have happened. Seriously, though. Every better have turned in their cellphones and made that nine o'clock curfew. After all, I'm just looking out for everyone here.