There are absolutely no moral victories in the playoffs, but say this for the Charlotte Bobcats: You have to admire their perseverance, resiliency and ability to maximize their talent against a superior opponent.
Despite their best player hobbling around on a painful left foot, Charlotte gave the Heat more trouble than most would have expected in Game 2 on Wednesday, before succumbing for the 18th time in a row to Miami, with 17 of those losses during LeBron James’ Heat tenure.
“Just so many mistakes we need to fix,” Bobcats guard Kemba Walker said. “We need to fix it fast. I know those guys are defending champs. [But] I think we have a chance.”
Walker’s three-pointer trimmed Charlotte’s deficit to 98-97 with 12 seconds left, before two James free throws pushed the margin back to three.
But Dwyane Wade foiled Charlotte’s next possession by stealing the ball from Chris Douglas-Roberts with 2.9 seconds left.
Gary Neal had put Douglas-Roberts in a bad predicament by passing him the ball in a precarious position along the sideline, which drew a quick double team.
In that situation, “to get a three, you need somebody with size and athleticism to get a shot off quickly,” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. “We don’t have anybody like that.”
Bobcats center Al Jefferson felt his strained plantar fascia “rip all the way through” when he ran upcourt in the first quarter. He rebounded from his first-half struggles (six points, 3 for 10 shooting) to produce a terrific third quarter (10 points, six rebounds) but had just two points (1 for 3 shooting) and one rebound in the fourth.
“A lot of pain,” he said. “Doctor said there was nothing more I can do to hurt it, so I had to play through it. I rushed a lot of my shots, thinking about it. Just missed a lot of shots I should have made.”
Clifford said Jefferson “is no where close to 100 percent. He has no mobility basically, limited mobility.”
The Bobcats got a big lift from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds. Clifford called it “the best game he’s played as a pro.”
But Walker shot just 5 for 18 on a 16-point night: 4 for 9 on three-pointers but 1 for 9 on two pointers. And Neal shot 1 for 8.
The Bobcats committed the league’s fewest turnovers during the season, just 12.3 per game. On Wednesday, they had 12 in the first half, leading to 18 Heat points, but just three in the second half.
“Against a team like this, you can’t play a first half like we played,” said Clifford, whose team trailed 29-19 after a quarter.
The Bobcats couldn’t overcome 42 percent shooting, not on a night the Heat shot 52 percent and attempted 10 more free throws (29-19).
Forward Josh McRoberts delivered a forearm to James’ throat with 50 seconds left, but the foul was not called a flagrant foul. “It looked worse than it was,” McRoberts said. “It wasn’t intentional. I got caught in the air.”
Clifford said owner Michael Jordan has been helpful in this series. “Similar to what he does all year — he’ll text me with things he sees,” Clifford said. “He’s a great resource for me. I appreciate the way he treats me and how he gives suggestions but always lets me know, ‘You’re the coach. You can do what you want, but this is what I see.’”