With 21 games remaining, the Charlotte Bobcats are making a push for their first playoff appearance. A victory over the Miami Heat on Tuesday night could be critical to those hopes.
Charlotte looks to win its third straight over the visiting Heat, who turned in one of their worst performances ever in their last game at Time Warner Cable Arena.
The Bobcats (30-31) are one-half game behind Chicago for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, and one game behind Miami (32-31).
Charlotte looks to erase that gap, and win the potentially important head-to-head tiebreaker, by clinching the season series and capping off a perfect homestand. The Bobcats defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 98-83 on Friday and topped Golden State 101-90 on Saturday, putting them in position for their first three-game winning streak since Jan. 26-30.
"(The win) moves us closer to where we want to be at, especially gives us a little momentum with Miami coming in," forward Gerald Wallace said Saturday after scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
The last time the Heat came to town Jan. 20, Wallace had 20 points, 10 boards and five blocks and Stephen Jackson scored 24 as Charlotte rolled to its franchise-best ninth straight home win, 104-65. It was the Bobcats' most lopsided victory and set a team record for fewest points allowed.
The Heat missed 21 of 23 from 3-point range and shot 28.9 percent overall -- fifth-worst in team history. Dwyane Wade scored 16 points in 32 foul-plagued minutes, but makes this trip to Charlotte following one of his better efforts of the season.
Wade, among the league leaders with 26.4 points per game, scored 38 with 10 assists as Miami won its third straight Saturday, 100-94 over Atlanta.
"That might have been his most efficient game of the season," coach Erik Spoelstra said of Wade, who is averaging 33.3 points, 12.0 assists and 5.0 boards during the Heat's three-game winning streak.
Second-year forward Michael Beasley was anything but efficient during a six-game stretch from Feb. 20-March 4, averaging 9.7 points on 32.4 percent shooting. He bounced back Saturday after some encouragement from Wade, scoring 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter.
"He punched me in the chest (during a second-half timeout)," Beasley said, "and he was yelling, 'I need you. No more feeling sorry for yourself."
Beasley missed eight of 11 shots and scored six points Jan. 20 in Charlotte.
Carlos Arroyo is expected to make his third straight start at point guard after Rafer Alston was suspended indefinitely by the team Saturday. Since losing his starting job Thursday, Alston has only made himself available to the team via text messaging, and his time with the team may be over.
Bobcats point guard D.J. Augustin, who had 13 points off the bench in a 107-97 win at Miami on Jan. 2, looks to continue his strong play after scoring 19 on Saturday. He has scored in double digits in three straight games for the first time since a four-game stretch from Oct. 30-Nov. 6.
"He had been down on himself the past month or two -- we just told him to keep playing," Wallace said.
Charlotte has won five of six at home versus Miami.