The nine-player offseason trade now could have playoff implications
NBA.com analyst Chris Ford previews the first-round series between the Heat and the Hornets.
Three Things For Miami:
Need a healthy Eddie Jones. He's the team's leading scorer and will take the defensive pressure off Alonzo Mourning and Anthony Mason in the middle.
The Heat are thrilled to have Mourning back in action.
Need penetration in the paint. The Heat have had a problem taking it off the dribble and getting into the key all season long. Coverage to Miami's post players should open up driving opportunities for its backcourt.
Stick with the strong defense that got the Heat this far in a turbulent season. They've had an up and down season with injuries and lineup rotations, but managed to pull out 50 wins and second place in their division. That's their defense talking and the Heat will need it to get anywhere in the playoffs.
Three Things For Charlotte:
Attack the boards, especially with the offensive rebounding to create second-chance scoring opportunities.
Need David Wesley to be productive. He's made a great transition over to the two guard and can come up big by knocking down three-point shots.
Make the most of scoring opportunities. In four games, neither team reached 90 points. The Heat especially concentrate on their defensive efforts so the Hornets need to score when they can.
Marquee Matchup: Alonzo Mourning vs. Elden Campbell
Mourning is returning to form after missing much of the season. He's playing very well and is such an intimidating force out there on the floor both defensively and offensively, backing guys in when he gets the ball on the post. This is a crucial matchup and Elden Campbell has got to come through. Campbell's a very good offensive player himself. He's got a whole repertoire of jump hooks and jump shots, but he's got to be there each and every night. He's got to have a big production through the playoffs.
Mourning has seemingly had his way with Campbell through the years. But Campbell has improved his post presence for the Hornets this season and averaged 11.3 rebounds per game in the regular season series against the Hear. In order for Charlotte to do well in the playoffs, Campbell has got to more than hold his own down on the block. He's got to be very productive offensively and also do a good job as far as rebounding for the Hornets.
Miami's Offensive Approach:
It will be interesting to see what head coach Pat Riley does here as far as lineups. Will he go with Brian Grant in the starting lineup or will he stay with a smaller lineup? It doesn't seem like Grant really likes to move over to the bench. I think that probably the best team the Heat can put on the floor is the front line of Mourning, Grant, and Mason. That presents a lot of problems, especially because Jamal Mashburn would have to guard Mason on the low post. And a lot of the offense now, even with Mourning back, will go through Mason. He's just had an All-Star year and played some great basketball.
Where will Eddie Jones be as far as his health and his ability out there on the floor? The Heat certainly needs his offensive capability and firepower. At times, the Heat just cannot put the ball in the basket. They can't score points. They're going to need Jones's perimeter game as well as a guy like Dan Majerle. Majerle has got to be able to produce down at the offensive end of the floor. He's got to be hitting that outside shot. Points will be very difficult to come by in the paint. The Heat need Majerle and Jones at the outside shot. Anthony Carter slightly sprained his ankle Wednesday night in the regular season finale against the Magic. Now with Tim Hardaway possibly out at least for the first game with his injured left foot, that could be a real factor here. The point guard position is really in a precarious way right now.
Charlotte's Offensive Approach:
The Hornets have been one of those up and down teams all season long. They started out real well and then hit some tough spots. The first five is very good. David Wesley has made a great transition over to the two guard and being a backcourt partner with Baron Davis. It's a small, but very productive backcourt. The Hornets will rely on Wesley for the outside jumper, especially to knock down the three-point shot. Mashburn has got to be able to do it from the perimeter as well, but in the event that Mashburn goes cold, Wesley is going to have to really step up. Mashburn had a real good series versus the Heat. He averaged 25 points and 9.3 rebounds in the four games during regular season. I'm sure he wants to prove something to Riley and the Heat in this series.
The Hornets have the firepower to battle the Heat. They've got some good inside players with Campbell and PJ Brown and Mashburn up front. And the X factor is Derrick Coleman. He's still a talented player, but will he bring his A-game to the playoffs? And will he disrupt the Hornets' chemistry? It would be great to see Coleman come in there and play at his top level because that would really, really help Charlotte.
Poised For A Big Series:
Cedric Ceballos has been in and out of Riley's doghouse all season. His minutes have ranged from the upper 20s to none and all. But Ceballos is a guy who can score points. He put up 21 to go along with 11 rebounds in a win over the Kings on March 14. If the Heat find themselves in a difficult way, Ceballos is just one of those guys who has a knack for scoring and that might play a role here in this series.
If this series had been played last year, many of the same players would be wearing different uniforms. There are nine guys that have played for either roster after the offseason trade that sent Jones to Miami and Mashburn to Charlotte. Some guys left unhappy and some guys left on mutual agreements, but it should make for an interesting playoff. These players are all going to be wanting to show the other team how good they really are.
I like the Heat just because of their superior defense. That's going to be a constant factor. I think the inconsistency of the Hornets all season long will rear up again somewhere in this playoff series. So I like Miami in four.
. Employment opportunities