Three became one this past Friday, when the Miami Heat’s Big Three finally practiced together. LeBron James, having sat out during the final week of the season because of a sore back and ankle, joined Chris Bosh who also took a week off to recuperate, and Dwyane Wade to prepare for their upcoming post-season matchup with the Charlotte Bobcats. Although Wade was in the lineup when James and Bosh were not, he had previously missed the last nine games because of a strained hamstring.
The Big Three are not alone in their less-than-optimal states, as Udonis Haslem did not play a single game in February, Michael Beasley tweaked his ankle during the season’s closer and Greg Oden is still listed as day-to-day. This season, the Heat have used 21 different starting lineups, and have lost six out of their last eight games.
The good news is that the Heat have won 16 consecutive games against the Bobcats, 15 of which took place during the Big Three’s reign. In fact, during their last tête-à-tête, Lebron set both a personal and Heat franchise record of 61 points in a single game, bringing the final score to 124-107.
One year ago, the Big Three would be looking far past round one, their eyes on the prize, and this series would have been a clean 4-0 sweep over the Bobcats.
However, with the amount of recent injuries plaguing the Heat, leading to too many changes in the lineup and not enough team consistency, the Bobcats may have more to rejoice about than finally getting some prime-time television attention.
Charlotte may not have a self-proclaimed Big Three, but Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker have certainly proved themselves to be an unexpected, yet successful power duo. Jefferson, the 10-year NBA veteran and highest paid free agent in franchise history, relies on old-school, fake-out tactics while Walker, only three years deep into the league, dazzles on quick drives to the basket. At first glance, these two may not have much in common, but one thing is for sure: they will be keeping the Heat on their defensive toes.
The Bobcats went 20-9 after the All-Star break and have doubled their number of wins since last season. Charlotte was swept by the Orlando Magic the last time they made the playoffs, in 2010. In many ways, they have more to prove.
So will this be a straight, no brainer, four-game series for Miami? Maybe. Though I see it looking more like a grinding five-game defeat for the Heat. With the Big Three slightly out of sorts and Charlotte ready to prove themselves worthy of playing among the champions, I have to give at least one win to the underdogs.
Will this be the start of a three-peat for the Heat? I cannot wait to find out.