The Norman Transcript

National Sports

April 20, 2014

Heat open quest for another title

MIAMI — If the Miami Heat are going to watch their season and reign atop the NBA end at the hands of the Charlotte Bobcats, then fates of the franchises will have to change in a hurry.

Upset odds look miniscule. Miami has lost only four of its last 23 games against the Bobcats, going 15-0 in the series since LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade teamed up with the Heat.

But it’s numbers like those that the Heat are rendering irrelevant heading into Game 1 of the Eastern Conference first-round matchup today. Miami may deserve the confidence of a two-time defending champion bidding for a fourth straight NBA Finals trip, but the Heat aren’t overlooking any team heading into these playoffs.

“Anything before this season doesn’t matter,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They had a different team, a different coach. The only thing that matters is this year. Our last three games against them, we had to dig back from three deficits to come back and win. That has not gone lost in our preparation.”

Here are the numbers that do seem to matter to Miami these days: The Bobcats were 20-9 since the All-Star break, have held opponents to under 50 percent shooting in 18 of their last 19 games and had the league’s lowest average turnovers-per-game over that same stretch, just 11.6 giveaways per night.

“This is a good ballclub,” Wade said. “This is not the Charlotte Bobcats that everyone thinks of when you hear the name.”

Al Jefferson and Steve Clifford changed all that. Jefferson’s first year in Charlotte was a colossal success, with him averaging 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds. Clifford inherited a team that was 28-120 over the last two seasons and won 43 games — and a seven-win franchise two years ago is now a seventh-seed in the East playoffs.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
National Sports
  • Indians trade Justin Masterson to Cardinals

    CLEVELAND — The Indians had little choice but to give up Justin Masterson. The trade doesn’t mean they’re going to surrender the season....

    July 31, 2014

  • Cowboys sign tackle Smith to 8-year extension

    OXNARD, Calif. — Tyron Smith has a new contract that will probably make him the most important blocker for the next Dallas quarterback after Tony Romo....

    July 31, 2014

  • Quarterback questions abound with big stars gone from SEC offenses

    MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Quarterback battles and signal-caller questions abound in the Southeastern Conference going into preseason camps around the league. Big names, not so much....

    July 31, 2014

  • Jones says Brent out of rehab, NFL question next

    OXNARD, Calif. — Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says former defensive tackle Josh Brent is out of rehabilitation and could have his future with the NFL resolved before the team leaves training camp in California in two weeks....

    July 31, 2014

  • Ives to crew chief for Dale Jr. in 2015

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There was no shortage of candidates to replace Steve Letarte as Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s crew chief The list of applicants was long, but Hendrick Motorsports has always liked to groom its own talent. So the organization ...

    July 31, 2014

  • Gustafson wants Gordon’s team focused on Chase

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jeff Gordon viewed his Brickyard 400 win as a turning point for his race team. Confidence had been building with every strong run, but his victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway pushed his crew to another level. It was ...

    July 31, 2014

  • Mercury not thinking streak

    Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury are closing in on one of the greatest records in WNBA history, the Los Angeles Sparks’ 18-game winning streak. To equal that mark, the Mercury need to win two more games, starting with defending ...

    July 31, 2014

  • Hamlin crew chief out 6 races

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR suspended Denny Hamlin’s crew chief and car chief on Tuesday for six races because the Joe Gibbs Racing entry failed inspection following his third-place finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Darian Grubb and ...

    July 30, 2014

  • Bell focuses on every facet of his game

    LATROBE, Pa. — Le’Veon Bell kept watching the tape over and over, equal parts pleased and puzzled by what he saw....

    July 30, 2014

  • Sam factor may ready Rams for sensitivity class

    ST. LOUIS — To guard against another bullying scandal, NFL teams are holding sensitivity sessions during training camp....

    July 30, 2014