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.