MIAMI — Charlotte Bobcats forward Byron Mullens did a lot more in his first game back than anyone expected: Twenty-eight minutes, 12 points, and nine rebounds.
He did at least one more thing that he wished he hadnt.
Cant do that, Mullens said of a turnover under the Miami Heat basket that led directly to a Chris Bosh dunk in Miamis 99-94 victory at American Airlines Arena.
This was a game where a single error might have made the difference. Coach Mike Dunlap said so, and that was certainly Mullens message, too. But the Bobcats staying in this game from start to finish was somewhat of an accomplishment.
They played without rookie starter Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, out with a concussion. They had constant foul trouble in the first half, forcing a mix-and-match rotation. But they hung tough with Heat stars LeBron James (31 points) and Dwyane Wade (20) without giving away open looks to others. The Heat, fourth in the NBA in 3-point percentage, made just 1-of-12 from the arc Monday.
So, yes, this was one of the 11-36 Bobcats better efforts.
Our play was extremely tough for all four quarters, said Dunlap. But when youre playing on the road against a team of Miamis stature, one play can make the difference.
The turnover Mullens beat himself up over came with 1 minute, 19 seconds left and the Heat clinging to a two-point lead. Mullens rebounded Ray Allens missed 3-pointer, turned to look up-court and was stripped by Bosh. James ended up with the ball, Mullens turned to defend James, and Bosh (23 points) caught a pass for a dunk.
That started the Heat on a 6-0 run, with James adding a layup and Wade a dunk. Game over.
I wont sleep very well after that, Mullens said.
In every other regard, he should sleep soundly. Mullens has been out since before Christmas after severely spraining his left ankle in Denver. This was his first game back, and Dunlap said Sunday he planned to use him no more than 15 or so minutes.
Plans change: Mullens made his first two jump shots and was active on the boards. Kidd-Gilchrists absence was compounded by foul trouble for Jeff Taylor, Kemba Walker and Ben Gordon.
That left Dunlap scrambling for combinations. He used Reggie Williams, who hadnt played a minute in five games. And he leaned heavily on Mullens, whose shooting range opened the floor some for point guards Ramon Sessions (18 points) and Walker (11).
You have to respect his 3-point shot. Those other guys at his position are more bangers, Sessions said of 7-footer Mullens. The spacing really helped. Any time you give us a little opening, we dont need much room to score.