Defending champions Miami Heat, aiming for a third straight NBA title, will be up against the Charlotte Bobcats in the first round of the playoffs. Miami, who finished the Eastern Conference in second behind the Indiana Pacers, are hoping to leave their late-season hitches behind and open their title quest by wrapping up the opening series in four or five games.
Miami have struggled in their last few regular-season games, while Bobcats did well to take seventh place, record including victories over Indiana Pacers, Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets.
Miami are dependant upon the dangerous trio of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to drive them home. In their last meeting, Bobcats failed to confine James, but putting too much effort on him would leave their defense vulnerable.
On the other hand, Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson have to light up the scoreboard for the Bobcats. The Steve Clifford-coached side has made good strides under the guidance of their new coach, but stopping Miami is going be a colossal task.
Miami might be heading as favourites in their championship quest opener, but their head coach Erik Spoelstra feels that past records doesn't matter and the way Bobcats have performed in last three games against them explain how good a side they are.
"Anything before this season doesn't matter," 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."
Power forward Jefferson -- averaging 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds -- is enjoying a good season with Bobcats. He said the team is not under pressure of beating the defending champs, as they are proud of what they have achieved in the season till now.
"It's time to take it to another level," Jefferson said. "We reached one goal. Regardless of what happens in the playoffs, we are one of the teams that stood out this year and we are proud of that."
Where to Watch Live
The game is scheduled for a 3:30 pm ET (1:00 am IST, 8:30 pm GMT) start with live coverage on ABC in the US and BT Sport in the UK. The game can be watched via live streaming online HERE.