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.
LeBron got a step and got another and went to the hoop like one of those running backs no defender wants to tackle. Josh McRoberts tackled him. As LeBron, 6-8 and 250 pounds, went to finish the play, and dazzle fans, and make the rest of us shake our heads and ask, “How’d he do that?’ McRoberts, 6-10 and 240 pounds, hit LeBron in the neck.
This was more than a playoff foul. This looked like a foul from a different time, from a Larry Bird Boston Celtics-Magic Johnson Los Angeles Lakers series, a big man going down hard. Everybody – Heat fans, TV networks, the NBA, basketball fans – suddenly worried about the health of the best player in the sport, the one that never gets hurt.
LeBron sat on the court, hand near his throat, trying to figure out where he was and why.
McRoberts, with his long hair and beard, kind of looks like a bad guy, a villain. But he went to Duke.
Miami guards the ball beautifully, rarely letting an opponent beat it off the dribble and stealing the ball and scoring off the steal when it does. The Heat scored 22 points off 15 turnovers. Charlotte came back by scoring 16 points off 17 Miami turnovers.
So, game two was exciting and rough and Charlotte scared Miami and Miami won anyway. Again, the Heat did what they were supposed to do.
What are the Bobcats supposed to do when the series moves to Charlotte for games three and four?
I don’t know. But it’s going to be cool to find out.
©2014 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)
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