CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Dwyane Wade has a chance to rest those sore knees and that tight hamstring. And LeBron James can ice up his thigh contusion. The Miami Heat earned a little extra rest and relaxation after completing a four-game sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats with a 109-98 victory Monday night.
With Toronto and Brooklyn tied at 2-2 in their series, it could be until Sunday before Miami knows its second-round opponent. That would mean at least a week off for the two-time defending NBA champions.
“I’m sure our guys will love it but the most important thing is that we have the chance to move on,”Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Miami is the only team that can say that. No other NBA team has closed out its opponent and only the Heat swept their series.
“Nothing is guaranteed,” Spoelstra said. “Some people that are cynical may look at this as a 2-7 [eed] matchup and say they were supposed to win 4-0. It’s not working that way in this league. … We understand how tough it is to win in this league.”
They also know how to win titles.
It’s the second straight year the Heat swept their opening-round series. “We have been here before, we have learned some lessons from last year – and that is the best part of it,” Chris Bosh said. “I think we will handle it better this time.”
In many ways, the Bobcats might have been just what the Heat needed.
The Heat were challenged by a hungry Charlotte team but were never in any real danger of losing the series. So it gave them a chance to dip their feet once again into the playoff waters and prepare for the long, grueling run that awaits.
“We could tell we are working to get our rhythm back,” Wade said. “They pushed us. They’re a very competitive team, a very scrappy team, but we obviously felt we were the better team.”
James said the Heat improved with each passing game. “The biggest thing I’m happy with is the way we protected the ball,” said James, who scored 31 points and had nine assists in closing out the Bobcats. “When we don’t turn it over, we’re able to set our defense up and get good shots.”
That was a concern at the end of the regular season. James said the Heat did a “horrible” job of protecting the ball in March and April. Yet the team that has now won nine straight playoff series was able to flip the switch and win the turnover battle with the Bobcats.
“When we don’t turn it over, we give our offense a great chance to succeed and our team a chance to win games,” James said.
James was injured in Game 4 when he drove to the basket and his right thigh collided with Bismack Biyombo’s knee. He remained on the ground as concerned teammates gathered around. He said he will be fine for the next round.
After the game Monday, James received congratulations from Bobcats owner Michael Jordan, who has two three-peat titles under his belt.
James is in search of his first triple this season. “It’s a process and we’re headed in the right direction,” James said. “This is a great direction after these four games. We played championship-level basketball and that was great. We got tested by a very young and scrappy Bobcats team. The way we responded was a championship attitude.”
But he cautioned the Heat will have to play better in the next round. “We can’t win in the next round playing like we did in this round,” James said. “We’re looking forward to finding out who our next opponent is and preparing for them.”
Meanwhile, the Heat will have plenty of time to rest up and think about what must be done to move on to the Eastern Conference finals.
“I think it helps,” Udonis Haslem said of the rest. “You want to get through healthy. We did that. Two, you want to get some guys that may be logging major minutes some rest and, you know, help guys take care of some bumps and bruises. And that’s what we were able to do.”