Although a plethora of contenders stand in their way, LeBron James and company will be heavy favorites to advance past the Charlotte Bobcats and into the Eastern Conference semifinals for the fourth consecutive year.
With a four-time league MVP in James leading the way, and boasting one of the NBA's top scoring defenses to fall back on, Heat fans should gear up in anticipation of another deep postseason run in 2014.
Head coach Erik Spoelstra is certainly ready, per Sun Sentinel's Ira Winderman: "There's a storm coming. And it's time for us to really start preparing for that storm."
Below, we'll get you set with Miami's first-round schedule breakdown and some predictions for the Heat's upcoming playoff series.
|(2) Miami Heat vs. (7) Charlotte Bobcats|
|4/20||(7) Bobcats vs. (2) Heat||3:30 p.m.||ABC|
|4/23||(7) Bobcats vs. (2) Heat||7 p.m.||TNT|
|4/26||(2) Heat vs. (7) Bobcats||7 p.m.||ESPN|
|4/28||(2) Heat vs. (7) Bobcats||7 p.m.||TNT|
|4/30||(7) Bobcats vs. (2) Heat||TBD||TBD|
|5/2||(2) Heat vs. (7) Bobcats||TBD||TBD|
|5/4||(7) Bobcats vs. (2) Heat||TBD||ABC|
|*if necessary. Info via NBA.com|
Series Prediction: Heat Sweep Bobcats, 4-0
While the Heat have faced plenty of criticism over the course of the season and have been accused of settling on cruise control on more than one occasion, don't expect them to have too much trouble dispatching the Bobcats in Round 1.
After all, Miami swept the regular-season series with Charlotte in 2013-14, winning twice at home and twice on the road.
Sure, the Bobcats came close to beating the Heat when they fell 99-98 at Miami on Dec. 1 and 104-96 in overtime at home on Jan. 18. But keep in mind, James exploded for 61 points his last time out against Charlotte. The Heat went on to win that game by 17 points in South Beach, the site of the first two games in this series.
Therefore, Steve Clifford's squad enters this playoff matchup with few positives to build on and very little confidence in his team's ability to overcome the two-time defending champions in four out of seven tries.
If the Bobcats are going to have any hope of avoiding a clean sweep, they'll have to thrive on the defensive end and on the glass. Charlotte ranks fourth in the league in scoring defense and Miami ranks dead last in rebounds per game.
As a result of Miami's deficiencies on the boards, Al Jefferson will be a huge key to this series. If the veteran can shake free from the Heat's defense and have a big night on the glass, the Bobcats could come away with at least one win on their home floor.
But even if Jefferson plays out of his mind, the Bobcats simply lack the firepower to contend with the Heat this spring. Watch for the Heat to advance quickly to the conference semifinals.
Series MVP Prediction: LeBron James, F, Miami Heat
You'd be foolish to go with anyone else when it comes to projecting the MVP for the Heat-Bobcats series. Not only is James one of the league's most gifted scorers, but his ability to defend every position on the floor, rebound and make others better on offense clearly make him the best player by far in this series.
At the moment, only Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant can make a stronger case for MVP.
Even if James isn't scoring 27 points per game in this series, the transition threat he presents, as well as his rebounding prowess, will be huge. Remember, James is Miami's leading rebounder coming into the playoffs, averaging nearly seven boards per game.
Still, James is the engine that powers Miami this time of year. He's taken huge strides since coming up short in the 2011 NBA Finals and understands exactly what his team needs to complete the task at hand, having led the Heat to eight straight playoff series wins.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.
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