The Charlotte Bobcats had an answer for everything the Miami Heat had Sunday, except Chris Bosh turning into Ray Allen.
In a tremendous game in which the Bobcats led the defending NBA champions by 14, Heat center Bosh pulled up for three 3-pointers late in the game that crashed the Bobcats’ party.
The Bobcats have now lost 14 straight to the Heat. There was a strong sense of remorse in the locker room that they slipped up defensively in the game’s last nine minutes to waste what had been their best overall performance of an 8-10 start.
“It was actually the plays before” Bosh’s 3s that hurt just as much, said shooting guard Gerald Henderson (17 points but none in the fourth quarter). “Defensively we didn’t get into our spots. We let them get it close when we were up 12 to 14.
“It’s tough because we deserved to win that game. We just didn’t finish.”
Specifically, Bosh finished them. He was coming off a slump in which he’d totaled just 17 points in three games and seemed in constant foul trouble. Bobcats coach Steve Clifford quoted a statistic from memory – that in 3-point attempts from above the break (as opposed to corner 3s out of the natural offense), Bosh was shooting under 30 percent this season.
“It’s not like he was Ray Allen,” Clifford said of Miami’s 3-point specialist.
It didn’t matter Sunday.
“Once he felt that first one, he got hot,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “The (other) guys got into the paint and then the ball just got to him. You could tell after that first one that he wanted it.”
This was partially a function of the defensive attention any NBA team must pay reigning league most valuable player LeBron James. He ended the game with 26 points, five rebounds and five assists. For the most part, the Bobcats had Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Jeff Taylor guard James without defensive help.
While the Heat shot 52 percent from the field, Miami got just four offensive rebounds and the Bobcats took three more trips to the foul line than the Heat. That’s what built a 79-65 Bobcats lead with nine minutes left and nearly carried them to the finish line.
Clifford spoke before the game about how crucial it was that the ball get into the lane to engage the offense against a defense as precise and stifling as Miami’s. That often happened, with center Al Jefferson posting up for 16 points (plus 13 boards) and point guard Kemba Walker driving for 27 points, 20 of those in the second half.
Actually Walker’s last point was unintended. With the Bobcats trailing by four Walker was fouled by Norris Cole on a 3-point attempt with seven-10ths of a second left. That meant three free throws. Walker made the first two, then tried to intentionally miss the third hoping Jefferson or Josh McRoberts might get a put-back.
But Walker’s ball ricocheted through the rim, ending the game.