Basketball / Sports

Heat head to Charlotte up by two as other title contenders struggle

MIAMI -- There is chaos throughout the NBA Playoffs.

The Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunders, serious championship contenders, are trailing in their first-round series. The top-seeded San Antonio Spurs are having problems with the No. 8 Dallas Mavericks. The Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets were swept on their homecourt the first two games.

So many surprises.

And then there's the Miami Heat.

With many favorites on the ropes, the Heat are lone heavyweight team in position to take control of a series. They hold a 2-0 entering Saturday's Game 3 against the Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena.

"The first two games, but still more to come," Heat center Chris Bosh said. "Just watching the (other) games, it helps us stay on edge a lot and that's how you have to be during the playoffs ... We just want to make sure that we do our job. We did our job in the first two games and we have to continue to do that."

The Heat have been the norm in this abnormal postseason. Through Thursday games home teams were just 9-10 -- last year they were 14-2 after 16 games -- and the Washington Wizards and Portland Trail Blazers are on the verge of pulling upsets.

"It doesn't happen this way normally," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "It is a little different. You see teams go into an opponent's building and winning both games. It's very different, but that doesn't mean nothing."

It was once considered a lock for the Heat to face the Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals, but Indiana is getting all it can handle with the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks. In the West, the Thunder and most valuable player favorite Kevin Durant are struggling with the Memphis Grizzlies.

"A series can change so fast," Wade said. "Obviously, they're both down. You win the next game, they're right back in control of the series because they're going home with the ability to go up 3-2. We've been in that situation before where we've been down 2-1. It's a long series. You've got to approach it that way."

The Heat prefer to keep their attention on the task at hand rather than focus on the rest of the playoffs. Even though they won both games, they could easily be tied or down in the series. In Game 1, the Bobcats were slowed by a first-half injury to center Al Jefferson.

Game 2 wasn't decided until Wade stole the ball from Bobcats guard Chris Douglas-Roberts in the closing seconds. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the games have been "dogfights."

"Everybody expects a two seed to wipe out a seventh-seed," Spoelstra said. "It doesn't work like that in the playoffs. You get into competition, anything can happen. You see series shift over the course of history. You have to start over from scratch the next game."

Forward LeBron James added: "We can't worry about what other teams are doing. We control our own destiny."

The Heat have never lost a Game 3 in the first round in the Big Three era. They swept the Milwaukee Bucks last season while jumping out to 3-0 leads against the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers the previous two years.

A win Saturday would put the pressure on a young Bobcats team lacking playoff experience. It would also provide the Heat with the possible chance of resting players for Game 4. They used that strategy last year against the Bucks, allowing Wade to rest his knees in the series-clincher.

"This team is very desperate because they know they can't go down 3-0," James said. "We've got to come in with the mind-set that we want to win Game 3 and not go up 3-0. We're not going in for a sweep. We're going in to win Game 3 and then we'll worry about it after that."

(c)2014 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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