The Miami Heat’s journey for a third straight title got off to a good start on Sunday with a 99-88 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.
It wasn’t an easy win for the Heat, but when it was needed most Miami was able to put together a run and maintain their home court advantage in the series. The big story in this one was James Jones who wound up with 12 points in 14 minutes and hit multiple critical shots in the second half to help the Heat build a lead. LeBron James wound up with 27 points to go along with one assist and eight rebounds. Dwyane Wade had a big game scoring 21 points with 5 assists in 34 minutes of play. Chris Bosh had a tough day only shooting 4-13 on his field goal attempts for 13 points.
Things started a little slow for the Heat with the Bobcats outscoring Miami by four in the first quarter. In fact, at one point the Bobcats held a 21-12 lead before the Heat turned the tables. That nine point lead for Charlotte wound up being their biggest and it fell apart shortly after Al Jefferson was forced to exit due to a strained left plantar fascia. With Jefferson being tendered to in the locker room, the Heat cut the deficit to two before his return in the second quarter.
Even though he returned, Jefferson was clearly not at his best and the Heat took advantage of that going up by ten towards the close of the half. Kemba Walker’s buzzer beating three-pointer made it a seven point game at the half instead but that would prove to not matter in the end. One of the more surprising moments of the first half was a layup by Jones with 1:21 left in the second quarter. Jones who did not see much action during the regular season as a whole, almost exclusively lives on the perimeter. After the layup, Jones also sank two of three free throw attempts following a foul from behind the arc.
The second half started off about as rough as the first half for Miami when the Bobcats opened up the half on an 8-0 run to give them a quick one point lead before the two minute mark even hit. The Heat called a quick timeout but Charlotte maintained control and still led five minutes into the half due to Walker’s electric play. The guard had eight points in the first four and a half minutes of the third quarter. With about two minutes to play in the third quarter, Jones picked up another layup in what was part of a turning point in the game. That layup followed a three-pointer from James who added a layup of his own shortly after. Jones would then go on to sink a three moments later before James drained another tough three-pointer at the buzzer. In the blink of an eye, the Heat opened up a seven point lead to close out the quarter which put them right back where they started at the beginning of the half.
In the fourth, the Heat continued to keep their foot on the pedal with Jones adding another three-pointer in the early minutes before taking a break. The Heat extended their lead to ten points and never looked back. Wade took and made a rare three-pointer with 6:50 left in the game to make the lead 15. Following a Charlotte timeout, the Heat continued to build up their advantage ballooning it all the way to 20. The extension of the lead took place with James resting on the bench and featured a lot of Wade who did not appear rusty. The Bobcats put together a 9-0 run as the clock ticked down to two minutes but the Heat were able to put a stop to it and complete the win.
The second game of the series is set for Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. on TNT as the Heat will look to go up 2-0 before heading to Charlotte for a pair of games.