Miami enters tonight's ball game with Josh McRoberts and Chris Bosh out, as they have been for some time now, as well as rookie point guard Shabazz Napier. Starters Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside are both listed as questionable for tonight's match-up as are reserves Chris "Birdman" Anderson and Michael Beasley. There are seven Heat players listed on their injury report and that doesn't even include star guard Dwyane Wade, who is gutting it out after tweaking his knee last week. By NBA rule, the Heat have to dress at least eight players, I'm interested to see who those eight are.
On the other side tonight is an injury-plagued Charlotte. Stars Al Jefferson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will not play tonight while key role player Cody Zeller is listed as doubtful. With Jefferson out, Bismack Biymobo will start at center tonight, but Bismack will play in a mask after suffering a broken nose Saturday night. Biyombo scored nine points to go with nine rebounds and three blocks against Philadelphia that night. He averaged 2.4 blocked shots over his last eight games.
Joining Biymobo in the starting lineup will be Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Marvin Williams, and Jeffery Taylor. This lineup started Saturday night's win vs. Philadelphia, becoming the 17th different starting lineup for the Hornets this season. Taylor scored seven points, grabbed four rebounds, and dished three assists with a steal in 26 minutes Saturday night. Kemba Walker had 24 points in the win against the 76ers. He's scored in double-figures in 10 of his 14 games since returning from his knee injury and seems to be returning to the Kemba we're used to seeing. Marvin Williams is averaging 13.2 points on 48.9 percent shooting from the field over the last five games.
Tonight's meeting with Miami is the fourth of the four divisional match-ups. Right now Charlotte holds a 2-1 advantage in the series with a 96-89 win in Charlotte on November 5 and a 78-76 win at the Hive on January 21. The Heat took the game in-between, a 94-93 win for them on November 23 in Miami. The last meeting, Jan. 21 in Charlotte, was in the middle of the Hornets beginning to turn things around. The win marked their seventh victory in eight games and their 76-point defense that night gave them three consecutive games of holding their opponent under 80.
Charlotte has lost 10 in a row at Miami with their last road win there coming on January 2, 2010. That whole stretch was largely against the now-dismantled Heatles and this is a very different team, even without the injuries.
Breaking that streak tonight would give the Hornets the season series between the two teams and the tiebreaker over the Heat in any playoff scenario. Charlotte currently sits 11th in the Eastern Conference standings, a half-game back of both Miami and Indiana and 2-and-a-half games back of eighth-seeded Boston. Charlotte and Miami are the only two teams involved in the Eastern Conference playoff race that are playing tonight. A Hornets win would push them a half-game ahead of Miami and tied, record-wise, with Indiana.
Things get underway down in Miami at 7:30 p.m. ET.