Can This Miami Heat Squad Respond Tonight to First Playoff Lost?

Now the NBA playoffs have really begun for the Miami Heat. The first two games of absolutely scorching shooting made Miami the hottest team in the NBA and put it on a collision course with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Charlotte Hornets, once thought of as a pesky matchup, were relegated to mere speed bumps in the Heat's path. 

That all changed last Saturday night when the Hornets handed the Heat a 96-80 ass-kicking. Now it's time to see how this science experiment of mix-and-matched players responds to getting punched in the junk. 

Wade said prior to the game the Heat really needed to get only one of the two games in Charlotte, and his team certainly played like that was the goal. Sloppy on offense, uninvested on defense, and generally barely treading water until the Hornets blew it completely open in the third quarter, the Heat couldn't have looked like a more different team than it did in Miami.

Everything that could go wrong did.

Hassan Whiteside was in early foul trouble, taking him out of the game for some of the crucial early moments. Goran Dragic and Joe Johnson were ineffective and invisible much of the game. The Heat's rookie duo of Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson shot a combined 2-12. Dwyane Wade shot 7-20. Even coach Erik Spoelstra had a bad game, inexplicably deciding to assign Wade to Hornets rookie Frank Kaminsky on the defensive end. Nothing worked in Game 3. 

Tonight the newest incarnation of the Miami Heat faces it's first real test. Heat fans grew to understand and trust in how the Big Three-era teams would counterpunch in the playoffs. Those teams always had the stars to get them out of tight spots. Those teams had LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Those teams had multiple playoff-tested veterans. 

This Heat team has none of those things, so how the players react when pushed against the ropes on the road is a complete mystery. How will a team that has come together so well on the fly respond to NBA playoff pressure?

We'll find out at 7 p.m., when the Heat and Hornets begin Game 4 in Charlotte. 

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