RALEIGH — Point guards Ramon Sessions and Kemba Walker gave the Charlotte Bobcats 24 points each in a 98-92 preseason loss to the defending NBA champion Miami Heat at PNC Arena.
The Heat got 21 points in 25 minutes from power forward Chris Bosh.
The Bobcats showed some persistence in the second half, coming back from 18 down late in the third quarter to tie the game with about a minute left, before committing a shot-clock violation. But the Heat’s starters were long gone from the game during that Charlotte run, so it was hardly a representative sample.
The first half took a too-familiar pattern this preseason: Bobcats miss a bunch of open shots early and fall behind by double-digits. Then they spend most of the second quarter playing good enough defense to make the margin respectable at halftime.
The Bobcats trailed by 12 early. Walker was the only particularly effective scorer initially, generating 8 points off his first four shots. By halftime Walker had 15 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field.
The impressive thing about Walker early was his decision-making in the lane. Coach Mike Dunlap expressed concern during training camp that Walker has a tendency to leave his feet without a plan as to whether to shoot or pass. Tuesday looked like an improvement, particularly on a pull-up jumper from eight feet.
The only other effective Charlotte scorer in the first half was fellow point guard Sessions (13 points on 4-of-8 shooting). He also knocked down a Miami pass in the high post for a dunk on a run-out. That’s the sort of takeaway defense Dunlap emphasizes.
The Heat shot 53 percent in the first half, but Charlotte’s defense wasn’t all that bad. League most valuable player James shot 1-of-4 with Bobcats rookies Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor alternately guarding him.
The Bobcats went small for long stretches of the second half, with shooting guard Gerald Henderson often guarding Heat power forward (and fellow Duke Blue Devil) Shane Battier. Dunlap had hinted pre-game he needs to further explore the option of going small, mentioning Kidd-Gilchrist can guard some power forwards to create matchup problems for the opposing team.
Both teams had starters out. Miami played without Dwyane Wade, who took a night off following offseason knee surgery. Bobcats power forward Byron Mullens missed his second straight game with a bruised knee, and shooting guard Ben Gordon was a late scratch with a strained right ankle.