Charlotte Hornets (-3) at Miami Heat
A year removed from an appearance in the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat (34-43, 18-19 home) are struggling to keep their playoff hopes alive, losing four games in a row thanks to a decimated roster.
Short days ago, Erik Spoelstra had his team sitting seventh in the East. Now, the beleaguered squad is currently on the outside looking in, sitting one game back of Boston for eighth. The few remaining healthy Heat players will look to get the team back on track tonight when they host the Charlotte Hornets (33-43, 14-23 road) at AmericanAirlines Arena (7:30 p.m. Eastern).
Miami’s most recent loss was a 112-89 setback against Indiana on Sunday. Unfortunately for Spoelstra and company, they ran into an inspired Pacers team on a night when Paul George was making his season debut. The loss coupled with Boston’s win over Toronto on Saturday bumped Miami from a playoff spot for the time being.
“That’s how quickly it can change,” Spoelstra said. “One week ago, these teams were where we are right now and vice versa so we have to put together some wins. [If w]e put together a string, it can turn right back in our favor. But we have to put together good basketball though.”
Putting together good basketball will be exceedingly hard, though, with Luol Deng, Michael Beasley, Chris Andersen, and Hassan Whiteside all suffering from various injuries (and Chris Bosh and Shabazz Napier already suffering season-ending setbacks earlier in the year).
But Spoelstra isn’t making excuses. “We have to focus on Tuesday, get healthy, get right and realize we’re still fighting and kicking and we have an opportunity. We’ll use the next 48 hours to get to that mind-set to get ready to really compete on our home court for the biggest game of the year,” said the coach.
While Miami is focused on reeling in Boston, Charlotte has the shorthanded Heat squarely in its sights, sitting just a half game back of Miami.
The Hornets have been making a modest playoff push of late, beating Philadelphia 92-91 on the weekend for their third win in the last five. Charlotte shot just 40-percent from the floor in the game, but Gerald Henderson salvaged an off-night with a last-second lay-up to give his team the W.
“It was ugly but we don’t care,” said Henderson. “It was a win.”
Playoff-wise, the Hornets have a tough schedule with two games against Toronto, as well as contests against Atlanta and Houston remaining.
They’re also suffering from some injury woes of their own with Bismack Biyombo (nose), Al Jefferson (knee), and
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (ankle) all questionable for tonight’s game.
Even though Charlotte doesn’t play well on the road, the Heat’s multitude of injuries – coupled with their own mediocre play at home – means take the Hornets and the points (+3).
(Photo credit: Keith Allison from Baltimore, USA (Dwyane Wade) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)