All of the good things we were saying about the Heat’s supporting cast in the preseason came to fruition in the Miami Heat’s 97-81 win over the Charlotte Bobcats.
Despite playing without Mario Chalmers (suspension), Ray Allen (sick), and Udonis Haslem (back), it was the bench that finished off what was a close game up until the midway point of the fourth quarter.
LeBron James, who led the way with an efficient 30 points on 18 shots, left the game for good with 7:52 left in the fourth and the Heat holding a seven-point lead. With Dwyane Wade disappearing from the sideline following a four-point performance and Chris Bosh facing foul trouble all night, Miami was going to need more than LeBron-centric ball to pull away.
The bench, as well as Norris Cole who started in Chalmers’ place, would run off a 12-2 run to build a 17-point lead with 3:50 left. Chris Andersen, Roger Mason, Jr., Michael Beasley and Cole all contributed a score in the game-clinching run.
Beasley played as if he’s contending for a certain award designated for bench players. He scored 15 points, six coming in the fourth, on 7-of-14 shooting, and scored on an array of mid-range looks and drives.
It’s the third time in five games where Beasley has scored at least ten points, and is doing on 60 percent shooting.
His versatility has been a gift to Miami’s bench. Wade and Bosh’s respective struggles only worsened the Heat’s condition going into the contest playing without three rotation players.
But the Heat don’t claim to have one of the deepest benches in the NBA just for any reason. This is by far the deepest bench in the ‘Big Three’ era and it’s the first time they’ve had a rotation that could go 15-deep.
It’s exactly what the Heat did today by playing Mason, Jr., who had his first solid game as a member of the Heat with nine points and four rebounds, and Joel Anthony, playing in only his fourth game this season.
Greg Oden continued to sit out and has yet to play in a game this season. This would have been an ideal game to have him play in with Bosh in foul trouble all night and Haslem being absent, but the team is progressing slowly in having him return and playing any sort of meaningful minutes.
Even if the Heat do rank dead last in rebounding, it hasn’t proven to be too significant of a liability. Miami managed to outrebound Charlotte by seven tonight, representing just the second time this season where the Heat have outrebounded an opponent this season.
Also of note was Miami’s 21-of-23 performance from the foul line. It seems they have taken an interest in their percentage from the charity stripe following three consecutive games of sub-70 percent shooting from the line.
While the bench got it done in the final quarter, LeBron played like, well, LeBron through the three-and-a-half quarters he was featured in. He scored 20 of his 30 points in an electrifying first half that featured a behind-the-back alley-oop and a pair of breakaway dunks.
He restricted his highlights in the second half, adding on a chasedown block of Kemba Walker’s layup attempt that ended up in the third row behind the Heat bench.
Miami appeared ready to run away with it early on when they built a 16-point lead early in the second quarter, but a 15-3 run and an 8-0 run at the end of the half facilitated by Gerald Henderson and Ramon Sessions by the Bobcats to cut the Heat’s lead to four going into halftime.
Charlotte would tie it at 47 apiece early in the third quarter, but were never able to take the lead. A crucial 8-0 run near the end of the third quarter gave the Heat the comfortable margin needed to obtain some breathing room against a Charlotte team playing without Al Jefferson.
Miami failed to score over 100 for the first time this season, but it was the defense that earned the Heat a victory, a rarity early on this season. Charlotte was held to 35 percent shooting overall and was forced into 30 percent shooting on 27 three-point attempts.
Only eight turnovers were forced, but the quality of Charlotte’s shots were enough to help the Heat.
Miami returns home and continues their run of division games when they welcome the Atlanta Hawks Tuesday night.