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April 20, 2014

Whooo! Blog freed from bad-guy hostage takers!; plus Heat take G1 behind LeBron, Wade and James Jones off bench

1) It is TUESDAY, APRIL 22. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes column, leading with Heat-Charlotte. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Charlotte series poll, Giancarlo Stanton, Jets' big moves, Dabo Swinney & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote.

A special note to our Blog Family: You must know by now from my Tweets, or from other sources, that our blog host Typepad has been under denial-of-service attacks off and on for several days. This is the first time in awhile I have been able to get into my own blog and post anything new, and for you to see it (hence the unusually low number of comments for this post). Thanks for the patience. And see our latest blogpost just above this one.

G1: CLOSE, CLOSE, CLOSE ... THEN HEAT BUST IT OPEN: It was tighter for longer than expected. Give Charlotte that much. Miami didn't take the lead for good here Sunday until 62-59 with two minutes left in the third quarter of this first-round NBA playoff series. There was an inevitability, though, to the end result: Miami 99, Charlotte 88. Keys: LeBron James' 27 points, Dwyane Wade with a healthy 23 and James Jones with a sparky 12 points off the bench in 14 minutes. Miami also caught a break when the Bobcats' Al Jefferson (18 points) was slowed by a foot injury. He stayed in but was less effectve. Click on Vintage Wade for my column off the game. We're going to pick the Heat's top three Players of the Game throughout the playoffs and keep a running tally of who the postseason MVP is, based on inverse 3-2-1 scoring. From Game 1: 1. Wade; 2. James; 3. Jones.

DIFFERENT FEEL, DIFFERENT STAKES THIS POSTSEASON AS HEAT LAUNCH THREE-PEAT BID: Original post: Plenty of talking heads and hoop literati are picking against a Miami three-peat on the heel of the Heat's worst 1aa1anum1 1aa1aheatbobsregular-season record of the Big 3 era and questions about Dwyane Wade's durability. This also is the first playoff run of the epoch that will be followed by the option of free agency for LeBron James, Wade and Chris Bosh. That combination -- doubts about another championship, and not knowing what will happen this summer -- adds yet more drama to this annual two-month thrill ride we call a Heat postseason. That is the gist of today's playoff preview column by me; click on Wild Ride, Destination Unknown to read fully. This first-round series vs. Charlotte, by contrast, figures to be drama-free. Miami has beaten the Bobcats 16 games in a row including 4-0 this season by a combined 42 points, so anything beyond a five-game series would be a surprise. This enables Miami (or should) to get Wade's wind and legs back and in effect use this first round as a tuneup for the tougher tasks ahead. Key matchup: Udonis Haslem's defense versus Al Jefferson.

Poll result: Heat in 5 games: We asked for your pick in the Heat-Charlotte first-round series that starts today, and the vast majority had Miami in five games (47.3 percent) or in a four-game sweep by (40.3%). Heat in six games garnered 7.2% and Heat in seven a scant 0.2%. An upset series win by Charlotte had 5.0%. (Thanks for reading our blog, bravely optimistic or perhaps delusional North Carolinians!)

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