MIAMI (AP) – LeBron James grabbed a basketball off a rack as he left the practice court Tuesday, then turned and took a 40-footer without so much as jumping.
Seems like James and the Heat aren’t worried about much right now. Their opponents in this Eastern Conference first-round series can’t feel the same.
Charlotte star Al Jefferson’s availability for Game 2 is clearly in some doubt, yet another indicator of how difficult it may be for the Bobcats to even up this series when they visit Miami again on Wednesday night.
”If Jefferson is laboring a little bit … my approach, and our team’s approach, shouldn’t change,” James said.
The Heat took Game 1 on Sunday, shaking off a slow start to win 99-88, increasing James’ record to 9-0 in his postseason openers. Jefferson was hurt in the first quarter of that game, diagnosed with a plantar fascia strain in his left foot. He limped throughout the final three quarters, needed two injections to play, left in a walking boot and hasn’t practiced since.
Jefferson, still in his walking boot when the Bobcats arrived for their shootaround Wednesday morning, says he plans to play. That doesn’t guarantee anything.
”It’s really going to be depending on his level of pain right before the game because in order to give him as much time as possible to heal, they’re going to keep the walking boot on there,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. ”My understanding is that we really won’t know until they take it off and he tries to put more weight and pressure on his foot.”
Miami has an injury concern as well, with starting point guard Mario Chalmers being held out of practice Tuesday because of a bruised shin.
Whether Jefferson plays or not, Miami expects Charlotte to get Kemba Walker even more involved in the offense, using his pick-and-roll strengths to try and create some issues for the Heat.
”It doesn’t change what we’re doing,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”You hope that everybody’s healthy. He was able to establish a big low-point presence in the first half. He’ll still be able to do that if he’s in the game.”
Here’s five things to know going into Game 2:
MKG NEEDS TIME: Keeping Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on the floor is critical for Charlotte. The Bobcats outscored Miami by eight when he played in Game 1. But he logged a season-low 14:41 because of foul trouble – a double-whammy for the Bobcats since he was primarily guarding LeBron James. It was only the 14th time this season that Kidd-Gilchrist had at least four fouls in a game, but three of those have come against Miami.
WADE WATCH: Heat guard Dwyane Wade said Tuesday he still considers himself ”working my way back” but hopes he can find the same rhythm in Game 2 as he had in Game 1. Wade was highly efficient in the series opener, making 10 of 16 shots, scoring 23 points and best of all for Miami, he felt relatively fine afterward. Miami is 41-9 when Wade shoots better than 50 percent in a playoff game.
HEAT ROTATION: Spoelstra said one of the lessons Miami has learned throughout its past playoff runs is that everyone, at some point, gets called upon to fill some role. The rotation he’s planning in Game 2 remains a bit of a mystery, but the job James Jones did off the bench in Game 1 still has not been lost on teammates. ”Everybody needs to contribute,” Spoelstra said.
BOUNCEBACK FACTOR: One of Charlotte’s best traits in its run to the playoffs was resilience. Since mid-January, the Bobcats are 13-4 in the game immediately following a defeat. Whether that will be enough to end this 17-game losing streak against the Heat is another matter. If nothing else, it’s a sign that these young Bobcats tend not to wallow in misery too long.
MILESTONE WATCH: The Heat should hit several longevity milestones Wednesday. James is seven minutes shy of becoming the 22nd player with 6,000 in a playoff career. … Ray Allen will tie A.C. Green and Jerry West for 32nd all-time with 153 postseason appearances. … This will be the 100th home playoff game in team history.