Heat | LeBron James

Miami Heat’s LeBron James takes it upon himself to set tone

 <span class="cutline_leadin">Just a bystander: </span>Bobcats owner Michael Jordan sits court side at Time Warner Cable Arena during Saturday’s blowout game against the Heat.
Just a bystander: Bobcats owner Michael Jordan sits court side at Time Warner Cable Arena during Saturday’s blowout game against the Heat.
David T. Foster III / Charlotte Observer
WEB VOTE Which NBA first-round series has been the most compelling so far?

Special to the Miami Herald

Big finishes to quarters kept the Charlotte Bobcats close in the first two games of their first-round playoff series with the Miami Heat.

LeBron James was determined that that was not going to happen Saturday night in Game 3. And as a result, he got one of his own.

The Heat star put up his customary spectacular stat line in a 98-85 victory, scoring 30 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out six assists. But a steal at the end of the first half might have been the biggest play in a game that wasn’t going Miami’s way for the first quarter and a half.

James stepped in front of a pass by Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson as Charlotte played for the last shot of the half, and was fouled by Henderson as he tossed up a three-pointer with less than a second on the clock.

James sank all three free throws, giving Miami a 58-46 halftime lead and setting the stage for a game that became a blowout in the second half.

“How you close out quarters is huge,” James said. “They did a good job of staying in the game that way in the first two games. I put it on myself to make sure we closed the quarters the right way this time. That play was a big momentum push.”

Just another day at the office for James, who scored 32 points in a 101-97 victory in Game 2 on Wednesday, said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.

“But that greatness we don’t take for granted,” he said. “He does it on a nightly basis. I thought he read the game real well and knew exactly when to be aggressive.”

James said the Heat had to get that way after falling behind 27-23 after one quarter.

“We’re a veteran ball club and we know how to make adjustments,” he said. “We flew around a little more on defense in the second half and covered for each other a little better.”

James, who had 16 points at halftime, scored 12 of the Heat’s 28 points in the third quarter. Miami extended the lead to as much as 26 points, quieting a record crowd of 19,633 at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Sharing the ball was a big help, James said. “When we get 36 field goals and 26 are assisted, we know we’re playing our type of basketball. We were pretty locked in tonight.

This and that

• The Heat have never lost a Game 3 of a playoff series in franchise history (12-0) record.

• The Heat have now won at least one road game in 13 consecutive playoff series.

• Saturday’s game was James’ 63rd career postseason games scoring 30 or more points. He’s second only to Kobe Bryant (88) among active players.

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