Heat 97, Bobcats 81

LeBron James, Miami Heat cruise past Charlotte Bobcats

 

The Heat rested its Big Three and Shane Battier in the fourth quarter as Miami’s defense tamed Bobcats in Charlotte.

 
LeBron James of the Miami Heat watches his dunk from under the basket against Gerald Henderson of the Charlotte Bobcats during first-half action at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/MCT)
LeBron James of the Miami Heat watches his dunk from under the basket against Gerald Henderson of the Charlotte Bobcats during first-half action at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/MCT)
Jeff Siner / MCT

jgoodman@MiamiHerald.com

Dwyane Wade was monitoring the game in the locker room from his Twitter feed by the fourth quarter.

LeBron James shook his head “no thanks” when coach Erik Spoelstra asked him if he wanted to check back into the game with about five minutes to play.

Chris Bosh got up once during the final period and then sat back down.

Trips to the Queen City are always casual affairs for the Heat, but Saturday’s 97-81 victory against the Bobcats was especially easy. Wade and Bosh didn’t play in the fourth quarter and LeBron James checked out with 7:52 left in the game and the Heat leading by just eight points. No matter. Led by Michael Beasley, a collection of Heat reserves and fill-ins closed out the game for Miami’s first victory of the season on the second night of a back-to-back.

Even Shane Battier, who started for Udonis Haslem, watched the fourth quarter from the bench.

The Heat (7-3) finished the final eight minutes of a relatively close game with Beasley, Norris Cole, Roger Mason Jr., Chris Andersen and Rashard Lewis and Beasley, Mason Jr., Andersen and Lewis played all 12 minutes of the final period.

“I’m really proud of the group and really proud of the group that finished,” Spoelstra said. “To be able to earn that trust and to keep playing with confidence and playing hard and playing for each other and they earned the right to finish the game.”

Wade, who played sluggishly in his first back-to-back of the season, left the game with 5:23 remaining in the third quarter. He then headed to the locker room with tenderness in his knee. Wade finished with four points and was 1 of 7 from the floor one night after filling up the box score against the Mavericks.

With the game in hand, Bosh joked on the bench with James that he couldn’t remember the last time neither himself, James nor Wade did not play in the fourth quarter of a close game.

“I don’t know when the last time this has happened,” Bosh said. “They were within striking distance but we kept getting stops, we kept the lead a nice distance and that was a great thing. We were rooting for them and encouraging them to keep going because we need everybody, one through 15, to not only raise their play but sustain it as we go along.”

Bosh finished with seven points in less than 16 minutes. Considering the Heat was already shorthanded, his foul trouble had the potential to play a key role in the game. It did not thanks to James’ general greatness and the Heat’s depth. The Heat only had 11 players available and James was the only starter to score in double figures, but the Heat outscored the Bobcats 29-21 in the fourth quarter.

Beasley led the reserves with 15 points, going 7 of 14 from the field. Andersen continued his offensive surge with 10 points. He also had seven rebounds. Lewis and Mason Jr. had nine points each. The Heat shot 50.7 percent from the field overall but its streak of consecutive games scoring at least 100 points to begin the season ended.

“We did it the right way,” Beasley said. “We played basketball the right way. We all played hard on defense and let our defense convert to offense.”

James finished the game with 30 points, giving him at least 30 points in three straight games. He was 13 of 18 from the field and 4 of 4 from the free-throw line to go along with seven assists and four rebounds. James is now averaging 27.3 points per game.

Spoelstra emphasized consistent defensive intensity during the Heat’s walk through before the game and the Bobcats shot just 34.9 percent from the field. Guard Kemba Walker led the Charlotte with 22 points but his missed breakaway dunk in fourth quarter was indicative of the home team’s overall execution in the second half. Charlotte was shooting 32.3 percent entering the final period and the Heat pulled away when Cole checked in for James.

“We want to continue to get our defensive rankings up and we understand that, in the long, we’re not going to be able to compete for what we want to compete for,” James said. “We had a lot of energy tonight despite playing a close game last night. It was a great win for us.”

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