Ladies and gentlemen. Boys and girls. Lady Buzz and gentlebuzz.
Welcome to the 2016 NBA Playoffs. The Charlotte Hornets kick off their postseason run today against a familiar foe — division rival and 2016 division champion Miami Heat. The Hornets will be looking for their first postseason victory in a game since 2002, and there is plenty of hope and belief that Charlotte can end this streak this year.
Today will be the 104th meeting all-time between the two franchises (including playoffs), with Charlotte holding a 42-61 record against their South Beach rivals. These teams have met twice in the playoffs before — once in 2001, when the Hornets swept the Heat 3-0 in the first round of the playoffs (winning each game by an average score of 100.7-78.3), and once in 2014, when the Heat returned the favor and swept Charlotte 4-0 and won each game by an average score of 101.8-92.
Since the start of the 2014-2015 season (also known as the post-LeBron James in Miami era), these teams have gone 4-4 against each other. The last time these teams faced off (also in Miami), Charlotte escaped with a crucial 109-106 victory. The last time the Hornets hit the hardwood, they took down the Orlando Magic thanks to a yet another hot shooting barrage, while the Heat's last game saw them blow a gigantic lead on the road in Boston — thanks in part to a five-point third quarter.
By this point, you have probably read and listen to as many series breakdowns as humanly possible (if not, may I recommend some light reading here and some excellent breakdown from both Miami's and Charlotte's perspective here), so too not much more needs to be said on the subject.
Dwyane Wade remains as the face of the Miami Heat, though his stats are beginning to decline. He finished the regular season averaging 19 points (second-lowest of his career), 4.6 assists (second-lowest of his career) and 4.1 rebounds (third-lowest of his career) in a career-low 30.5 minutes per game while shooting a career-low 45.6 percent from the floor, 15.9 percent from 3 and 79.3 percent from the free throw line (which is actually the second-best of his career). Against Charlotte this season, Wade averaged 16 points, 4.3 and assists and 2.8 rebounds per game. The Heat were hopeful to have Chris Bosh back in time for the postseason, but it does not sound likely that he will return, which is fortunate for the Hornets — he has averaged 21.7 points per game against Charlotte in his career, his second-highest against any one team. Hassan Whiteside will be expected to pick up his play in Bosh's absence. Whiteside averaged 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and a league-high 3.68 blocks per game in the regular season and, as most Hornets fans remember, picked up a triple-double off the bench against Charlotte in points, rebounds and blocks.
Here are several keys for the Hornets if they want to earn their first win in a playoff game in almost 15 years.
- Charlotte's 3-point shooting
- Limit players not named Dwyane Wade
- Have the Hornets' youth and inexperience hold up in a hostile environment against a playoff-tested test in the Heat
If you would like additional game coverage for the series, you can visit our friends at Hot Hot Hoops.
But now, the time for talk is over. It is time of playoff basketball!