The Miami Heat visit the Charlotte Bobcats Friday evening in the first half of ESPN's double-header in a game where LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen are all sitting out. Mario Chalmers is considered a game-time decision but has missed the last three games.
Yes, things have slowed down for Miami after their 27-game winning streak came to a screeching halt against the Chicago Bulls. There's no reason for the Heat to do anything aside from getting ready for the playoffs as they've already locked up the first seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Charlotte Bobcats sit at the opposite end of the conference, dead last. 40.5 games back, to be exact. They've won just 18 games through 2012-2013. They, too, will be missing players, as DeSagana Diop, Ramon Sessions, and Brendan Haywood are all definitely out, while Jeff Taylor is questionable, and Byron Mullens is doubtful.
In the battle of who is left to play on these teams, one Chris Bosh stands alone, as he has over the last few games. With his fellow big three mates out with injuries Bosh is the lone ranger yet again, much like his days over the border with the Toronto Raptors.
This will be the third straight game that both Wade and James have missed, while Allen's ankle injury is fresh. Allen sprained his ankle during the Heat's loss to the New York Knicks after falling over a cameraman. Miami will continue looking ahead to defending their title through the playoffs, and playing any of their key contributors when their health is in any kind of question appears to be out of the question in the final eight games of the regular season.
The Bobcats are looking at the bleak end though -- the one that doesn't feature a playoff run. Still, with the worst record in the NBA, the draft lottery awaits, which is itself an exciting thing for a team continuing to gather young talent to build around and with. And with a national television audience, and one of their last few home games left, the Bobcats should put up a fight. When the Knicks defeated the Heat it took Carmelo Anthony pouring in 50 points, a testament to the Heat's system. Will the Bobcats put up a similar valiant effort?
For Miami, playing shorthanded is a great test of just how strong their system, and the depth of their roster, is. With what they hope will be a deep playoff run, there's no telling when an injury can limit a player, and giving the handful of players on their roster some extra burn as the season concludes is a great way to get a final look at what they've put together.
The two teams have faced off three times in the season, with the Heat winning all three games. When they last played on March 24 the Heat won by a difference of 32 points and picked up their 26th straight victory.
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Odds: Miami Heat favored by 5 1/2 points, via Oddsshark.com