Before facing the team they’re battling for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat are looking to avoid a second straight loss to a non-playoff team.
It should be a lot easier to do it with Dwayne Wade on the court.
After sitting out a game, Wade is expected to return Friday night as Miami hosts the Charlotte Bobcats.
The NBA’s third-leading scorer at 25.7 points per game, Wade sat out Wednesday’s 90-85 home loss to Milwaukee with a deep right thigh bruise that he’s been battling for nearly a week.
Wade, though, was able to do some on-court work Thursday and joined the Heat for their shootaround Friday morning.
As much as the Heat (54-24) might like to have Wade back for this game, particularly after falling to the sub-.500 Bucks without him, it may be more important that he’s able to play Sunday.
That’s when Miami will take on Boston, the team with which it’s currently tied for the East’s second seed. The Celtics hold the tiebreaker because they’ve won all three meetings this season.
“Nobody said this was going to be easy,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The Heat struggled Wednesday without Wade, getting held to its lowest point total since the All-Star break and shooting 40.5 percent. They fell to 3-10 when scoring less than 90 points.
“Much like these games feel in the playoffs, you lose one, everyone is ready to panic and shovel dirt on whatever we’re trying to do,” Spoelstra told the team’s official website. “We just have to stay the course and take care of business.”
LeBron James(notes) became the youngest of eight players in NBA history to score 2,000 points in seven straight seasons. He scored 29 and Chris Bosh(notes) added 18, but they were the only Miami players in double figures.
James has averaged 29.7 points in three meetings this season against Charlotte - all Miami victories. While Bosh’s 24.1 career scoring average versus the Bobcats is his highest against any team, Wade’s 21.5 average against them equals his lowest.
While the Heat get back one of their key players, the Bobcats may be missing one of theirs.
Charlotte (32-46) has lost four straight without leading scorer Stephen Jackson(notes), who has been nursing a sore left hamstring. He was originally slated to return Wednesday against Orlando but told coach Paul Silas in warmups he couldn’t play through the injury.
The Bobcats lost 111-102 in overtime to be officially eliminated from the playoff race.
“It’s difficult to take because we wanted to be (in the playoffs),” Silas said. “We didn’t make it, but I look at the positives. Something good’s going to happen.”
Jackson, who scored 30 points Nov. 19 against Miami, likely will be a game-time decision.
Charlotte has lost 14 of 20 to slip out of playoff contention after making the postseason in 2009-10 for the first time in franchise history.
“It’s tough, man,” Augustin said. “We’ve been thinking about the playoffs since we started the season.”
It likely won’t get any easier against Miami, which can sweep a season series against Charlotte for the first time since 2005-06. The Heat have won the first three matchups by an average 11.3 points.
Charlotte has lost 10 of 13 in Miami since joining the NBA for the 2004-05 season.