Can the Hornets Pose a Threat to the Heat?
*Photo via USA Today
The Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets will play in the first round in a three-six matchup. This is not a usual Eastern Conference three-six matchup, as the Heat and Hornets actually ended up with identical 48-34 records. It will be the second time in three years these two teams will meet in the first round. This matchup will be a lot different from the 2014 meeting. That year the Heat were the top seed in the East on their way to a fourth straight finals appearance, while the Hornets were lucky to sneak in. The Hornets were swept that year, and both teams failed to make the playoffs last year. Don’t expect the same results this time around.
Both come in with the same record, but got there in different ways. The Heat had been playing relatively well, winning six of their final ten, but the way they lost the last game of the season has to be concerning. They blew a 20 point lead to the Boston Celtics, they did not have the playoff intensity ready to close out that game against a playoff team. Now, while that is not the way you want to end the season, I do believe they know what it takes to get into playoff mode. They will need to get back to playing solid basketball because the Hornets have been one of the hottest teams in the league coming into the playoffs. They are 21-8 since the all-star break, and are in the top three in wins since February, along with the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors.
*Photo via ESPN
There’s no doubt Charlotte will be able to give the Heat a series, and possibly pull off an upset. I see this series going six or seven games. In the end, I believe the Heat’s veteran presence and championship experience from Dwyane Wade will be the factor that allows the Heat to prevail. However, I’d be much more confident about that pick if Chris Bosh was able to play. Wade is not what he once was but still has the ability to turn it on in the playoffs and you should never count him out. A big factor for the Heat without Bosh will be how the supporting cast of Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside and company perform. It would not shock me whatsoever if the Hornets were to take this series they’ve been playing some of the best basketball in the entire league. Their best player, Kemba Walker, who is a candidate for Most Improved Player, has a history of great performances in big games, going back to his days at The University of Connecticut. This will be his second chance at an NBA playoff series to work some magic. The Hornets are not just about Kemba they have a deep team with many contributors that fly under the radar. Regardless of who wins, expect a very entertaining series with the potential to go the distance.