Three Hits: Short-handed Heat clip Bobcats

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Three observations from the Bobcats’ 89-79 loss to the Heat Friday night.

1. This Miami team isn’t defenseless without Wade and James.

What should have been a sure-fire mismatch between the teams with the league’s best and worst records looked anything but with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen all sidelined for the Heat.

But the Heat still managed to roll to a win that was never in doubt in the second half. They inserted Mike Miller and Rashard Lewis into the lineup and the veterans helped produce the stingiest defensive effort of the season for the Heat, limiting the Bobcats to just 30.6 percent shooting.

“They’re just tough. They’re always there to help,” said Gerald Henderson, who finished with 11 points on 2 of 16 shooting. “They’ve got some good perimeter defenders. They’re just always there. They’re very disciplined, and it’s tough to score on them if you don’t move the ball and try to get their guys moving and their bigs out of the paint. We just struggled against it.”

It didn’t matter for the Bobcats that the Heat’s two best defenders sat in sport coats. It was a night that’s resembled so many in their losses this season — an inability to hit the three-point shot (33.6 percent, good for 27th in the NBA) cost them, going just 3 for 16 from deep.

Even more troubling for the Bobcats, and the Heat, is they got up 19 more shot attempts than the Heat by forcing 20 turnovers and out-rebounded them by five. From the Heat perspective, sure LeBron, perhaps the Heat’s best rebounder, was out, but you still can’t help but wonder if a team that ranks 30th in the NBA in rebounding can win a title.

“We did a lot of good things defensively. Very active. Only area we really needed to show up was the offensive rebounds,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We weren’t really putting a body on people and blocking out.”

2. If Miller and Allen are dialed in, it’s going to be a long postseason for opposing teams.

The Bobcats are just 2-29 when the opposing team makes 10 or more threes. Mike Miller nearly took care of that himself Friday night, burying 7 of 11.

Nights like Friday must make the thought of Miller spotted up in one corner with Allen on the opposing side and the ball in LeBron’s hand a cringe-inducing one for coaches of playoff-bound teams. Even scarier, the Miller of last season was battling a back so bad he could barely play. This Miller isn’t.

“When you get time, you got to be aggressive,” Miller said after notching 26 points. “I feel great right now. I’m healthy for once, and it’s fun to get out here and compete.”

The importance of the night wasn’t lost on Spoelstra. Getting a shooter like Miller riding a wave of confidence before the playoffs can never be understated, and Miller is moving in a way he hasn’t in years.

“Well, look he’s a big-time weapon that we have, and he has absolutely bought into the sacrifice and the long season of an 82-game season,” Spoelstra said. “This is probably the healthiest he’s ever been this time of the year, and you see his value. He can strike it hot at any moment and go on a string of four or five or six in a row, but he’s unique with his size that he can get his shot off against a lot of people.”

3. Are the Heat going to come dragging into the playoffs again health-wise?

Halfway through the first quarter with the arena pretty quiet during a timeout, the home crowd erupted.

James and Wade, both dressed in street clothes, quietly emerged to join their teammates on the bench in front of a crowd filled with Heat fans.

Neither James nor Wade has played since March 29, sitting out the last three, as James continues to nurse a strained hamstring and Wade a sprained right ankle. They have the Eastern Conference’s top seed locked up, but you have to wonder if their injuries are legitimate cause for concern, the type of nagging injuries that have bitten Miami in the last two postseasons. James and Wade aren’t the type of players that need a ton of time to get going when they come back, and if they’re truly struggling with their respective ailments like Spoelstra says, in which neither has practiced, it’d be prudent to shut them down for the final seven games.

“We’ll see,” Spoelstra said of when James, Wade and Allen would be back. “These guys (who played tonight) will be ready to go one way or another. We’ll continue to reevaluate. Our guys are doing their part, getting a great deal of treatment. We’ll see how everybody feels tomorrow.”