MIAMI — These are the things we don’t get to say about the Charlotte Bobcats.
We don’t get to say they have a big heart. We don’t get to say they’re gritty. We don’t get to say they’re game. We don’t get to apply any of the terms we apply to underdogs that overachieve.
The Bobcats had a chance to beat Miami Wednesday at American Airlines Arena. They trailed by 13 in the first quarter and six in the second. Yet after a splay-legged, off-balance, used-to-do-this-in-the-Bronx 3 by Kemba Walker, the Bobcats moved within a point.
They were down three with 10.3 seconds to play. But Gary Neal, who had just entered the game, was unable to get off a 3. The ball went to Chris Douglas-Roberts in the right corner.
As Walker moved frantically around the perimeter, like a kid yelling at the coach to put him in, and as the shot clock wound down, Douglas-Roberts was stripped. And that was it.
The Heat beat Charlotte 101-97. They won both games in Miami. They did what they were supposed to do.
The question now is: What is Charlotte supposed to do? Miami is really good. LeBron James looked as if he was going to score 40. He scored 32. Chris Bosh, who couldn’t make an open jumper in game one, hit everything, scoring 20 points on only 11 field goal attempts.
Charlotte’s leading scorer is Big Al Jefferson, and he has plantar fasciitis, and in the first half you couldn’t watch him run down the court without wincing. If he had pilfered a walker from a fan near courtside, a good one with thick wheels and wire rims, he would have been justified.
As limited as he was, as close to the ground as he played, Big Al finished with 14 rebounds, seven more than anybody on the Heat, and 18 points (on 23 field goal attempts).
This was going to be the Heat’s game. Miami was going to cruise. It was. Every time the Bobcats got close, LeBron would score or find Bosh and push the lead to a place it appeared safe. Miami is mean like that.
And then came a frantic fourth-quarter rally, and this time the Bobcats kept coming.
Walker scored eight fourth-quarter points and they weren’t going to play as if, darn it, they had a big heart. They played to win.