LeBron James, Miami Heat in prime position to sweep first-round series

With the other battles in the NBA playoffs up in the air, LeBron James has the Heat as the only team that can close out the first round with a sweep.

04/28/2014 12:01 AM

04/28/2014 5:50 PM

Heat owner Micky Arison can’t stop tweeting about how compelling these NBA playoffs have played out in the first round.

“You have got to love the @NBA playoffs,” Arison tweeted on Sunday, a day after his team took a 3-0 lead against the Charlotte Bobcats.

He has recycled that proclamation just about every day since the playoffs started.

Another from his timeline: “The most competitive 1st Round of the @NBA playoffs that I can remember!”

With the Heat rolling and everyone else grinding, Arison can’t seem to put his smartphone away. Entering Sunday’s set of games, the Heat was the only team in complete control of its first-round series.

The Heat’s nemesis, the Indiana Pacers, are tied with the eighth-seeded Hawks 2-2. The Chicago Bulls, who have always given the Heat trouble in the playoffs, now trail the Washington Wizards 3-1 after a loss on Sunday.

In the West, the San Antonio

Spurs are down 2-1 to the eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks. The Oklahoma City Thunder is tied with the Memphis Grizzlies at 2-2.

After a season of uncertainty quite unlike any other since LeBron James joined the Heat, all the breaks seem to be going the Heat’s way and Arison, like all Heat fans, simply can’t get enough.

In truth, the playoffs haven’t even started for the Heat. Its first-round series was over the second Bobcats center Al Jefferson injured his foot. Down 3-0 and with just one day to rest between Games 3 and 4, Jefferson might not even play Monday, and if he does, he will once again be limited.

Like everyone else associated with the Heat, Arison has felt more like a bystander in these first games of the 2014 playoffs than an active participant. While 15 other teams scratch and claw, the Heat has coasted through the first round and can now sweep the Bobcats with a victory Monday at Time Warner Cable Arena.

So there was Arison at the Heat’s practice on Sunday in Charlotte, walking confidently past his team and smiling. He casually shot a wave at James, and James returned a gesture in kind. It’s good to be the king, but it’s even better to have him on your team.

James, too, has enjoyed the ride so far. Given the luxury of an easy first-round series, he has projected himself into other first-round games elsewhere. He often finds himself wondering: “What would I do in that position?”

“I would make some different choices and different plays down the stretch looking at some of these games, but everyone is in the playoffs for a reason,” James said.

James then went on to say that he’s enjoying the playoffs so far because watching close games is a lot different than playing in them.

“I have no strain or stress watching those games,” he said.

James’ biggest concern with the Bobcats on the ropes is the health of his own team, and, in particular, the health of friend and fellow superstar Dwyane Wade. This time last year, Wade was nursing a painful knee injury. He went 1 of 12 from the field for four points in Game 3 of the Heat’s 2013 first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks. Wade then sat out Game 4.

According to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, there is no plan for Wade to sit out Game 4 against the Bobcats.

“His health is very key to our success,” James said. “And he feels extremely well right now and he’s playing well, and we need that. We all came together for a reason, and it was not for one guy or two guys to sit out or anyone to be out. It was for all of us to go out there and make contributions to help this team win and for this team to be successful.”

With Wade, James knows the good times can change suddenly and that these NBA playoffs have only just begun.

This and that

James now has 21 30-point, 10-rebound, five-assist playoff games, breaking an NBA record shared by Elgin Baylor, per the Elias Sports Bureau.

James’ averages through three games of the playoffs: 29.7 points, 8.9 rebounds, five assists, two steals and three turnovers. He is shooting 56.9 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range. James is also averaging 10.7 free-throw attempts per season.

• The Heat committed just seven turnovers in Game 3. Since 2011, the Heat is 15-4 in the postseason when committing 10 or fewer turnovers in games, according to Elias.

“We understand that stat,” point guard Norris Cole said. “We know that stat. We love that stat.”

• Chris Bosh is shooting 72.7 percent (8 of 11) from three-point range in the first three games of the playoffs, but he downplayed that stat on Sunday.

“I’m wide open,” Bosh said. “I’m usually standing still. I’m not really moving too much on the shots, so I kind of expect it to go in. I’m kind of a perfectionist when it comes to jump shooting, so I’m happy for the consistency.”

Bosh has evolved into such a consistent three-point threat since he won his first championship in 2012 that when he steps out beyond the arc now it is no longer a novelty. Bosh was 15 of 37 from three-point range (40.5 percent) in the 2013 playoffs. In his first run to the championship with the Heat in the 2012 postseason, Bosh was 7 of 13 from three-point-range.

“I’ll continue to space the floor, but at the same time attack the rim and get to the line,” Bosh said. “I try to make the defense hesitant to double LeBron and Dwyane down there in the post, and if they do double them, then we got to make them pay. I just try to have a heavy arsenal of moves to be able to go to at any given moment.”

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