Charlotte Hornets

April 27, 2014

Miami Heat comfortable watching competition struggle

Miami can advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals with a win against Charlotte on Monday, which would be the only first-round sweep in this year’s NBA playoffs.

Heat owner Micky Arison can’t stop tweeting about how compelling these NBA playoffs have played out in the first round.

“You have got to love the @NBA playoffs,” Arison tweeted on Sunday, a day after his team took a 3-0 lead against the Charlotte Bobcats.

He has recycled that proclamation just about every day since the playoffs started.

Another from his timeline: “The most competitive 1st Round of the @NBA playoffs that I can remember!”

With the Heat rolling and everyone else grinding, Arison can’t seem to put his smartphone away. Entering Sunday’s set of games, the Heat was the only team in complete control of its first-round series. The Heat’s nemesis, the Indiana Pacers, are tied with the eighth-seeded Hawks 2-2. The Chicago Bulls, which have always given the Heat trouble in the playoffs, now trail the Washington Wizards 3-1 after a loss on Sunday.

In the West, the San Antonio Spurs are down 2-1 to the eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks. The Oklahoma City Thunder is tied with the Memphis Grizzlies 2-2.

After a season of uncertainty quite unlike any other since LeBron James joined the Heat, all the breaks seem to be going the Heat’s way and Arison, like all Heat fans, simply can’t get enough.

In truth, the playoffs haven’t even started for the Heat. Its first-round series was over the second Bobcats center Al Jefferson injured his foot. Down 3-0 and with just one day to rest between Games 3 and 4, Jefferson might not even play on Monday, and if he does, he will once again be limited.

Like everyone else associated with the Heat, Arison has felt more like a bystander in these first games of the 2014 playoffs than an active participant. While 15 other teams scratch and claw and make for great TV, the Heat has coasted through the first round and can now sweep the Bobcats with a victory on Monday at Time Warner Cable Arena.

So there was Arison at the Heat’s practice on Sunday in Charlotte, walking confidently past his team and smiling. He casually shot a wave at James, and James returned a gesture in kind. It’s good to be the king, but it’s even better to have him on your team.

James, too, has enjoyed the ride so far. Given the luxury of an easy first-round series, he has projected himself into other first-round games elsewhere. He often finds himself wondering, “What would I do in that position?”

“I would make some different choices and different plays down the stretch looking at some of these games, but everyone is in the playoffs for a reason,” James said.

James then went on to say that he’s enjoying the playoffs so far because watching close games is a lot different than playing in them.

“I have no strain or stress watching those games,” he said.

James’ biggest concern with the Bobcats on the ropes is the health of his own team, and, in particular, the health of friend and fellow superstar Dwyane Wade. This time last year, Wade was nursing a painful knee injury. He went 1 of 12 from the field for four points in Game 3 of the Heat’s 2013 first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks. Wade then sat out Game 4.

According to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, there is no plan for Wade to sit out Game 4 against the Bobcats.

“His health is very key to our success,” James said. “And he feels extremely well right now and he’s playing well, and we need that. We all came together for a reason, and it was not for one guy or two guys to sit out or anyone to be out. It was for all of us to go out there and make contributions to help this team win and for this team to be successful.”

With Wade, James knows the good times can change suddenly and that these NBA playoffs have only just begun.

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