This is the 3-6 matchup, but Miami and Charlotte ended the season as part of essentially a four-way tie with the Hawks and Celtics. This is one of the hardest matchups to get an early read on in the first round, with lots of variables for both teams in terms of lineups and options.
With that said, here are a few things to keep an eye on.
1. Three-point shooting: The Hornets have plenty of solid shooters, including Courtney Lee, Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams. The Heat don’t have much in that department outside of their midseason pickup, seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson. This is where they miss Chris Bosh, who matches up well with the Hornets’ bigs, who are capable of stretching the floor.
2. Is Nicolas Batum healthy? Batum suffered an ankle injury in the last week of the season. With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist out for the year, he was a major part of Charlotte’s success at both ends of the floor, and he proved a particularly devastating pairing with Kemba Walker. If Batum isn’t fully healthy, that’s a huge blow for the Hornets’ prospects in this series.
3. How effective will Hassan Whiteside be? Whiteside has been excellent in a bench role for most of the season for Miami, but the last few games of the season he’s moved back into the starting lineup. One can only assume Erik Spoelstra will start him to match up with Charlotte’s bigs. Whiteside is an outstanding rim protector, but he gets lost in Miami’s defensive schemes sometimes.
Prediction: Heat in 6.