2014 NBA playoffs: Miami Heat vs. Charlotte Bobcats

Charlotte Bobcats: If you foul LeBron James, make it hard

Game 3: Saturday, 7 p.m. (ESPN, SPSO)

jjones@charlotteobserver.com rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comApril 25, 2014 

The “Jordan Rules” tactic the Bad Boy Pistons employed on Michael Jordan in the late 1980s predates Bobcats forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but he still knew what they were.

“They wouldn’t let him get any layups,” Kidd-Gilchrist said Friday.

After Josh McRoberts’ hard foul on LeBron James near the end of Game 2 that ultimately netted him a $20,000 fine and a flagrant 2 foul, could be there such a thing as the LeBron Rules?

Not really, said Kidd-Gilchrist, McRoberts and shooting guard Gerald Henderson. But make no mistake, if you’re going to foul James, it has to be a hard foul.

At 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds and a rare combination of speed and strength, James is no stranger to hard fouls. As the four-time league MVP has evolved into the world’s best player, James has had to absorb a number of hard fouls when he drives to the lane.

James even had to wear a mask during games after getting hit in the face on a dunk attempt in February.

“He goes to the rim with such force and he’s so good at finishing with contact, you have to make sure the ball doesn’t get up,” Henderson said. “Obviously you don’t want to hurt him. Obviously you don’t want to do anything dirty. But with him there’s no telling what he’s going to do up at the rim. He’s capable of making extremely difficult shots and we’re trying to keep him from scoring. When stuff like that happens really fast, sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad. That’s just the game.”

Kidd-Gilchrist has been James’ primary defender this playoff series. In Game 1, Kidd-Gilchrist limited James to four points on 1-of-5 shooting from the field, but foul trouble kept the second-year player on the bench for the majority of the game.

Kidd-Gilchrist had a breakout performance Wednesday in Game 2 when he scored 22 points and 10 rebounds, and he held James to 16 points (he finished with 32 points) in the 27 minutes he and James shared the floor.

Kidd-Gilchrist said he can’t bask in his Game 2 performance since the Bobcats lost, but he admitted he’s done an “all right” and “OK” job guarding James. But when he has to be fouled, he knows how to do it.

“I don’t mean to foul him hard,” he said. “But it is the playoffs right now so, hey, you just got to take a hard foul sometimes.”

Bobcats point guard Kemba Walker rarely draws the assignment of guarding James. In fact, he only remembered one instance in Game 2 in which the 6-foot-1 guard had to be on James.

“I probably switched on him one time last game and he passed it,” Walker said.

So, Walker made James pass?

“Yeah, I made him pass,” Walker responded with a laugh. “He doesn’t want me to guard him.”

Jefferson all-in for playoffs: Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson is playing on a torn plantar fascia because it’s the playoffs. He would not be testing this injury if this were still the regular season.

“I don’t think the team would want me to,” Jefferson said Friday, after getting treatment on his left foot, which is again encased in a protective boot.

Jefferson said he’ll play in Saturday night’s Game 3 of the playoff series against the Heat. Despite losing some of his nimbleness around the basket, he managed 18 points and 13 rebounds in Game 2 in Miami. After that game, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra described Jefferson as a “tough hombre.”

Jefferson further ripped his left plantar fascia – connective tissue between the heel bone and the toes – during Game 2 after initially injuring himself early in Game 1. He said he was in so much pain Thursday that “it was like walking on hot coals.” He felt better Friday, roughly the same as he felt the day before Game 2.

Jefferson said he missed several shots in Game 2 that he usually makes. Though he can’t pivot to the basket as well as he usually does, he’s still integral to the offense because he forces Miami to pay special attention to him defensively.

“It’s like I’m a magnet,” Jefferson said, referring to Heat double-teams, “even if I’m not the guy I was a week ago.”

Though Jefferson is lessened, coach Steve Clifford still wants to run an inside-out offense where the ball gets to Jefferson just about every possession he’s in the game. That opens the perimeter whenever the Heat sends a second defender at Jefferson.

Cam can’t make it: Panthers quarterback Cam Newton won’t be in attendance for Games 3 and 4 at Time Warner Cable Arena, but he hopes the Bobcats can claw back from the 0-2 deficit and win the series so he can go to the next round of games.

“Big Al, we need him to be 100 percent,” Newton said at his foundation’s School Pride Day. “The whole team, it’s going to tell a lot when they come to Charlotte. Miami Heat is a tough feat. But we all know the pride of the Carolinas will hold it down for the Bobcats.”

Newton was courtside at a Dec. 2011 game between the Bobcats and Heat when Dwyane Wade hit a game-winning shot and then did Newton’s Superman celebration in front of the quarterback.

Newton performed James’ stomp celebration after scoring a rushing touchdown against the Dolphins in the Panthers’ 20-16 win in Miami in November.

Staff writer Joseph Person contributed.

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