At this time of the year, most basketball fans and analysts have their attentions focused on March Madness and the NCAA tournament bracket.
But in the NBA, the regular season is gearing up for its final 10 games and teams are in win-every-game mode as they battle each other out for playoff seeding.
Minus an injured Jermaine O'Neal and an uncharacteristic off night from Dwyane Wade, the Heat were able to stave off the Bobcats, 77-71, in a crucial home division contest that moved Miami a half game ahead of their opponents for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Quentin Richardson continued his recent string of strong play, leading the Heat with 18 points, all on first half three-pointers, and Michael Beasley contributed 16 points and seven rebounds to help Miami achieve their seventh win in their last 10 games.
The victory also continued their recent home success, as the Heat have been victorious seven out of their last nine times at American Airlines Arena.
Although Wade did have a poor shooting night, going 6-of-18 from the floor for a mere 14 points, he still made his presence known with nine assists, five boards, five blocked shots, and one steal.
“I made the effort plays tonight,” Wade said. “I made sure I continued to feed my teammates and we ended up getting a good win.”
Stephen Jackson led the Bobcats with 18 points, while Gerald Wallace added 15 and Boris Diaw posted 12 points.
Although it was a lackluster offensive showing by Miami, they were able to maintain the lead with their outstanding defense. They held Charlotte to a season low 29 percent shooting from the field and 15 percent from beyond the arc.
At the end of the third quarter, the Heat's defense caused Charlotte to go on a long drought, where they failed to score a basket over the final 4:30 of the quarter and it lasted late into the final period.
While Miami maintained a 71-61 lead after a 10-0 run in the fourth, Charlotte managed to come roaring back. They converted a series of free throws and after a Wallace lay up, the Bobcats were within two points with 1:24 left in regulation.
However, reserve Mario Chalmers' three free throws down the stretch off set the Bobcat comeback and gave his team the lead for good.
It was the Heat's first win over the Bobcats this season, falling to 1-3 on the year, but it came at a pivotal time with both teams neck-and-neck in the East playoff race.
Miami now has a half game lead on Charlotte for the sixth seed and remains only three games behind Milwaukee for the fifth spot.
Fortunately for the Heat, their schedule eases up immensely over the final stretch of the season, starting with the woeful New Jersey Nets on Monday.
Miami will look to gain ground on the Bucks and keep their slim lead over the Bobcats when they face the Nets Monday night.