Not even Game 1 of the 2014 playoffs, the game we thought the Miami Heat had been waiting for all year, could wake the team up from their regular season malaise.
But after a slow start to the third quarter, and some questionable effort throughout, the Heat pulled away with a big fourth quarter run to win Game 1 over the Charlotte Bobcats 99-88.
The Heat were only up 66-63 with 58 seconds left, but back-to-back threes from Miami, one by JAAAAAAAMES JOOOOONES and another by LeBron James, pushed the Heat lead to seven entering the final frame.
Following a Luke Ridnour baseline jumper to cut Miami’s lead to five with 10:29 left in the fourth, the Heat put together a 12-1 run to take a 17-point lead with 6:23 left. Miami held the Bobcats without a field goal for over four minutes in the fourth, with the lead stretching from five to 17 in that span.
Miami would lead by as much as 20, following another LeBron three, but the lead would be cut to 11 with 2:32 left. A huge block by Chris Bosh on Kemba Walker, and a pair of free throws from LeBron and a dunk by Dwyane Wade, effectively put an end to it.
For most of the game, though, the Heat had the demeanor of the team from the regular season; one that was apathetic to playing perimeter defense, incapable of making jumpers, and willing to settle for the jumpers they weren’t making.
The Heat faced a 21-12 deficit late into the firth quarter, before an 8-2 run cut the Charlotte lead to four entering the second frame.
Norris Cole, surprisingly, played a significant role in the Heat climbing their way back in the first, hitting a jumper late in the first and then scoring the Heat’s first five points of the second quarter. He finished with seven points on 3-5 shooting. It wasn’t much, but it’s far more than the negative results he’s been giving Miami lately.
Charlotte still owned a 34-28 lead more than halfway through the first half, but it was at that point where Miami turned on the jets.
LeBron would hit a layup, which was followed by a Chris Bosh three-pointer, a Wade fastbreak layup, a Bosh jumper, a Mario Chalmers layup, and then a LeBron free throw to cap off a 12-0 run. Charlotte, however, would stay alive with a pair of improbable threes from Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker to keep Miami’s lead at seven entering the half.
Charlotte would then take advantage of Miami’s carefree play early in the third, running off an 8-0 run to take the lead back. The game would go back and forth throughout the third, until LeBron and JAAAAAAAMES JOOOONES began making their shots.
The Heat were also aided by Al Jefferson being hampered with a hurt ankle he suffered in the first. Jefferson, who made his first four shots and finished with 18 points on 17 shots, was quietly dismantling the Heat defense (again), before the injury limited him on both ends of the floor.
Charlotte wound up being supported by Kemba Walker’s 20 points, and Josh McRoberts’ 15 points on only nine shots. Gary Neal also dropped in 17 points. Those three supported Charlotte and their 8-21 shooting from beyond the perimeter.
Meanwhile, the Heat were supported by the trio of LeBron, Bosh, and JAAAAAAMES JOOOOONES from the perimeter, connecting on 11 of their 23 three-point attempts. Even Dwyane Wade got in on the act, unexpectedly swishing a stepback three over Henderson midway through the fourth.
LeBron James: 27 points (8-16 overall, 4-8 from 3, 7-10 FT’s), 9 rebounds, 1 assist
Just another day at the office for LeBron, who took advantage in the post in his matchups against Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Gerald Henderson and Chris Douglas-Roberts. The Bobcats clearly have no answer for LeBron, who should flourish in the post all series long. His threes, however, were imperative in a game where Miami struggled to find an offensive rhythm early on.
Dwyane Wade: 23 points (10-16 overall, 1-2 from 3, 2-3 FT’s), 5 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal
Chef Wade was cooking with gas today. His jumper was on-point, his post game was unstoppable, and he added on a driving dunk to cap off an impressive performance in his first game back with no limit on his minutes. His crossover on Douglas-Roberts was disgusting and it looked a lot like the Wade from 2009, until he only flipped in a layup, rather than throwing down a ferocious dunk, over Henderson.
Chris Bosh: 13 points (4-13 overall, 2-4 from 3, 3-4 FT’s), 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
He was a big-time factor down the stretch, blocking a Kemba layup that would have cut Miami’s lead to single-digits late in the fourth, but he struggled with his shot throughout. He hit half of his three-pointers, but never really took advantage of Al Jefferson being slowed down by his ankle injury. You have to believe he’ll come out looking for his shot in Game 2.
JAAAAAAAMES JOOOOOONES: 12 points (4-6 overall, 2-3 from three), 3 rebounds, 1 assist, plus-18.
Well, the Heat certainly have some questions to answer after JAAAAAAMES JOOOOONES’ quality outing. While the starting lineup struggled to space the floor with Udonis Haslem, a minus-14 on the night, the Heat flourished with Jones, a plus-18 who provided the instant offense we’ve been clamoring for all year.
He also sent Cody Zeller to the floor on a pump fake and drive to the layup. That was a thing that happened, as was the layup he hit on a fastbreak led by Mario Chalmers.