Game time: 7:00 PM EST
Saturday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, baby! It's always exciting when the Miami Heat come to town and tonight is no exception. This game is actually for a piece of first place in the division as Charlotte currently sits a game back of Miami. Led, of course, by reigning league MVP LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the Heat is always a hot ticket (nailed it). But early this season it's been the improved play of point guard Mario "Rio" Chalmers that is encouraging for the defending world champions, until last night.
Chalmers is having the best start of his career averaging 5.3 assists per game and only turning the ball over 1.9 times before facing the Mavericks Friday night. He's also shooting as well as he ever has in his career and averaging a career best 10.4 points per game entering last night's game. Just as, if not more, important, he's getting to the line almost twice as much as he did last year. His 2.6 free throw attempts per game aren't earth-shattering, but he's never attempted more per game and he's hitting almost 86% of his free throws. For you PER fans out there (what's up, m'nerds) he's also topping out at 19.1, by far the best of his career.
Against Dallas he was not so great however. He had a season-high four turnovers against three assists and only scored four points before being ejected after a flagrant-2 foul in the fourth quarter. He'll look to bounce back tonight facing off against Kemba Walker.
Shane Battier is of course back to provide everything you want on your team and nothing you want to play against. The charges, oooohhhhhhhh the charges. He has a gift, whether we like it or not. And actually we should like it because he seems to have more of an understanding about what actually is a charge than the officials err -- anyone else. He does a great job of stepping in and being in position, and he typically gets there. So the Bobcats rushing through the lane (*cough* Michael Kidd-Gilchrist *cough*, *cough* Cody Zeller *cough*) must be wary.
Miami's soft spot is inside. Entering last night's game the Heat ranked dead last in the NBA in team rebounding grabbing just 34 per game, had a -5.1 rebounds per game differential and just a 46 percent overall rebound percentage. In comparison, the Bobcats have a positive rebound per game differential (+.02 but still, good for 14th in the league) and an overall rebound percentage of 50.1% grabbing about 41 per contest before last night's game against the Cavs. The signing of Greg Oden hasn't returned any real dividends of yet for the Heat as the big man has not played.
However the second time around with former top Heat draft pick Michael Beasley is starting to become more interesting. Beasley scored in double figures in his last two appearances before Friday night and shot 2-for-3 from behind the three-point line in this week's win against Milwaukee.
Of course ultimately the Big Three lead this team. James is the best player on the planet and appears to have shaken off any lingering back pain scoring 33 and 39 points in his last two outings. Wade sat out the second game of the season to rest up but is still a threat to grind it out and take over a game. However, his status for tonight's game will likely be determined close to tipoff. According to Michael Wallace of ESPN, there is no predetermined plan to handling his play during back-to-backs. Sounds like more of a wait-and-see approach. And Bosh is probably your favorite weird player in the league. He's super talented and the definite third wheel of this trio but it's his facial expressions and of course the photo bombs that are so clutch. They haven't quite gotten old and never will so we can still enjoy them. Never change, Chris Bosh.
Miami has scored 100 points in every game this season while Charlotte has managed to only score in triple digits twice. However the Heat have not held an opponent under 90 points all season which means PIZZA!!! But it also means Miami's defense isn't quite where it has been over the last two seasons. And also pizza.