The Miami Heat advanced to the second round of the playoffs on Monday with a decisive 109-98 win over the Charlotte Bobcats.
The Bobcats were without Al Jefferson, but still played the Heat well and kept the game close for most of the night. Kemba Walker had a big game for Charlotte, hitting several key baskets along the way.
LeBron James had another big night picking up 31 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds. James played every minute of the second half and did so with an injury to his thigh.
Bismack Byombo hit James in the thigh with his knee which caused James to writhe in pain but ultimately stay in the game. The Heat star had a noticeable limp and likely stayed on the court to stay loose.
The Bobcats led by two at the half with a 54-52 lead after outscoring the Heat by one in each of the first two quarters. James had a relatively quiet half scoring 11 points on only 2 of 5 shooting. He added a pair of assists and those 11 points were tied for the team lead with Dwyane Wade.
Miami’s biggest lead of the first half was three points and that came towards the end of the first quarter and then again early in the second quarter. It looked like the game would be all tied up at the buzzer before Michael Kidd-Gilchrist hit a layup with 4.6 seconds left.
The aforementioned scary moment for the Heat came with 8:43 left in the third quarter when James took the knee to the thigh from Byombo. James laid on the ground for a couple minutes before a timeout was taken by the Heat. After the timeout, James stayed in the game and ran with a slight limp.
Less than two minutes later, James sank a three-pointer to put Miami up two. James would add a jump shot and a dunk in the next minute of play. Norris Cole hit a three-pointer at the buzzer of the third quarter to give the Heat a 13 point lead which was their biggest of the game at the time.
The fourth quarter continued what the Heat started to end the third with the Heat maintaining a 12 point lead with eight minutes remaining in the game. With half the quarter gone, Miami still led by 11 points.
The Bobcats cut the lead under double digits briefly, but it wasn't long until the Heat had it back to a 13 point lead advantage. Just when it seemed the Heat had put the game away with a 13 point lead and four minutes to go, the Bobcats made it an eight point game. The Heat picked the lead back up to 11 with a minute to go to put the game away.
Before the game, the Heat paid tribute
to the Los Angeles Clippers by duplicating what that squad had done a day earlier. Miami dropped their "White Hot" t-shirts at half-court and then warmed up with their practice shirts inside out. The Heat continued that tribute all game long by keeping their shirts inside out on the bench.
The Heat will take on the winner of the Brooklyn Nets vs Toronto Raptors series which is currently tied 2-2. The next game for the Heat will not be until Sunday at the earliest. An early rest for the defending NBA champions.
The game also marked the final game ever for the Charlotte Bobcats. Next season, the team in Charlotte will once again be known as the Hornets.