LeBron James steps up in OT to lift Heat past Bobcats
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The large icepack on LeBron James’ right shoulder said it all.
Attempting 25 shots in a game will do that, the four-time MVP said.
James overcame a mid-game shooting slump to score 34 points and help the Miami Heat beat the Charlotte Bobcats for the 15th straight time, 104-96 in overtime Saturday night.
"The game presented itself for me to be aggressive and I was able to shoot a lot. It felt, well… that’s why I’m icing my shoulder now," James said with a laugh.
James wasn’t laughing much in the second quarter.
After hitting his first five shots from the field, James missed his next nine shots. But he turned that around late in the second half, hitting 8 of 11 shots from the field to close the game, including two driving layups in overtime.
"I came out shooting the ball extremely well and then I just hit a cold streak," James said. "My teammates kept confidence in me and I was able to get it going again."
Chris Bosh added 25 points and seven rebounds for Miami.
It was a costly loss for the Bobcats as starting point guard Kemba Walker sprained his left ankle midway through the third quarter when he stepped on Chris Bosh’s foot. He did not return.
Walker left the locker room on crutches and with a boot on his left ankle. X-rays were negative, but coach Steve Clifford said Walker will have an MRI on Sunday to determine the extent of the damage.
"He’s going to be out a while," Clifford said.
Ironically, Al Jefferson missed the first two regular season games after he stepped on Bosh’s foot in the preseason and turned his ankle.
Without their floor general, the Bobcats didn’t stand much of a chance against the Heat.
Jefferson had 22 points to lead the Bobcats, who were playing their fourth game in five nights.
Jefferson had averaged 29.6 points over the previous three games, but the Heat clamped down on him in the second half and the Bobcats went cold from the field.
"If he can catch it whenever he wants to, there is not much you can do," Bosh said. "We had traps and were able to give him different looks and I think that changed his timing up a little bit and played to our advantage."
The Heat never trailed in overtime.
James’ two free throws gave Miami a 98-95 advantage.
After Mario Chalmers blocked Jefferson’s put-back try from behind, James then drove to the basket and scored on the right side to push the lead to five with 1:22 left in overtime. He tried the left side on the next possession against Anthony Tolliver and succeed with a driving left-handed layup with 36 seconds remaining to push the lead to six.
Josh McRoberts and Tolliver each had costly turnovers in overtime for the Bobcats, who have lost 10 of their last 13.
The Bobcats led most of the game but the Heat tied the score at 88 when James knocked down a jumper with 5 minutes left in regulation.
But the teams only scored two points apiece in the final 5 minutes of the fourth quarter. Charlotte’s Ramon Sessions air-balled a 17-footer as the shot clock expired and James’ 18-footer rimmed out at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.
"I saw some grit," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Our guys were not happy at halftime and wanted to take a lot more pride in our defense and not just be talk but to walk the talk. They did a good job. They had us moving around and were moving the ball and attacking us and getting great looks. The second half there was more of a concentration — not only the effort but a discipline "
Ray Allen started in place of Dwayne Wade, who rested his knee after scoring eight points in the Heat’s win Friday night at Philadelphia. Allen got the Heat started strong with a reverse layup and a drive down the lane to build an early 9-2 lead and finished with 12 points and nine rebounds.
Greg Oden played in his second game since returning from a long layoff and looked plenty rusty with one point and three fouls in seven minutes.
Despite the loss, Clifford said he felt good about his team’s effort.
"We played a good game," Clifford said. "I feel like we’re getting back to fighting, defending and staying in games. Hopefully that will help us going forward."
NOTES: The crowd of 19,631 was the largest ever to see a Bobcats game at Time Warner Cable Arena on a night in which the team began selling its Hornets gear for the first time. The Bobcats will become the Hornets after this season. … Along with Wade, Chris Andersen did not play for the Heat. … James heard it from the fans after air-balling a 3-point attempt late in the first quarter. … The Heat outrebounded the Bobcats 43-34.