April 6, 2013

Mike Miller helps Miami Heat cruise past Charlotte Bobcats without LeBron James, Dwyane Wade

The Heat moved closer to clinching the NBA’s best record, getting 26 points from Mike Miller that helped it pull away from the Bobcats.

Chris Bosh and the Heat’s “expendables” — as Shane Battier playfully dubbed them — continued their playoffs-can’t-get-here-soon-enough schedule stretch Friday, tormenting the Bobcats with a barrage of Mike Miller three-pointers and throttling Charlotte’s woeful offense in the second half to draw closer to clinching the league’s best record.

With LeBron James and Dwyane Wade again sidelined and Ray Allen joining them, the Heat held off a Charlotte team that couldn’t shoot straight, winning 89-79 at Time Warner Cable Arena.

With any combination of three wins or San Antonio or Oklahoma City losses, the Heat will clinch the league’s best record, which would assure home-court advantage in the NBA Finals. The Heat already has clinched the best record in the Eastern Conference.

The Heat got 26 points from Miller, 18 from Bosh and 14 from Rashard Lewis on a night it made 13 of 33 three-pointers.

Miller had seven of those threes, on 11 attempts, matching his seven three-pointers in Miami’s Game 5 NBA Finals-clinching win last June. This was Miller’s first game with at least 25 points since January 2011.

“It’s great to see Mike that aggressive, with that mind-set,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He’s a big-time weapon we have. He has absolutely bought into the sacrifice. You can see his value. He’s unique with his size. He can get a shot up against a lot of people and can put the ball on the floor.”

Even without Allen, the NBA’s all-time leader in threes, Miami tied a season high for made threes in a half with 10 before intermission. The Heat’s 22 first-half three-point attempts were its most in a half this season and its 33 attempts overall were four short of a season high.

“Offensively, the ball was moving,” Spoelstra said. “We were finding open shooters.”

Miami had only three three-pointers in the second half — all by Miller — and instead generated several easy baskets in the paint, including a couple of dunks by Chris Andersen, to stretch a three-point halftime lead to 13. And a Miller driving layup with 1:42 left was big after Charlotte closed within six.

“My body feels good. It’s good to be healthy,” Miller said. “I’ve had to be patient. We’re trying to get our rhythm just in case [the team] needs us in the playoffs.”

The Bobcats scored just eight points in the third, the fewest Miami has allowed in a quarter all season, on 3-for-18 shooting. Charlotte finished at 31.8 percent for the game, the lowest by a Heat opponent this season. Charlotte also had the second-lowest at 33.7 percent. Bobcats guards Gerald Henderson (2 for 16) and Kemba Walker (3 for 15) combined to shoot 5 for 31.

Wade (ankle) and James (hamstring) missed their third consecutive game, with their status undetermined for Saturday’s home game against Philadelphia. James shot jumpers before Friday’s game, then signed autographs.

Allen, who injured his ankle when he collided with a cameraman on the sidelines at midcourt during Tuesday’s game against the Knicks, said he’s unsure if he will play Saturday.

But the Heat welcomed back Mario Chalmers, who had missed three games with an ankle injury sustained when he fell on Bosh’s leg during last week’s Chicago game. Chalmers had six points and seven assists.

The Bobcats also were short-handed, playing without centers DeSagana Diop and Brendan Haywood, forwards Byron Mullens and Jeffery Taylor and guard Ramon Sessions.

Miller, who has come out of mothballs the past week because of Wade’s injury, continued to make an impact, finishing 9 for 15 from the field.

He shot 1 for 19 during very limited minutes between Jan. 14 and March 22. Since then, he has gone 27 for 53, including 20 for 35 in his past three games.

“He’s one of the best shooters on planet Earth,” Battier said. “It’s nice to see him do that.”

Also encouraging Friday: Norris Cole’s continued development offensively. A 32.9-percent shooter from three-point range this season, Cole hit a pull-up three with the shot clock winding down in the first quarter Friday, then swished another one, and is now 11 for his past 17 on threes.

“It’s been a steady improvement,” Spoelstra said, noting Cole attempts 500 shots on non-game days.

Joel Anthony and Andersen made an impact defensively. Anthony blocked three shots in six minutes.

“We did a lot of good things defensively,” Spoelstra said.

Miami won its 12th in a row against Charlotte — its third-longest active winning streak against any opponent, behind only Philadelphia (14) and Brooklyn (13).

ESPN added this game to its schedule shortly before the Heat’s 27-game winning streak was snapped and instead got something far less interesting.

Before the game, James was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for the fifth consecutive month. He averaged 25.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists in March and spearheaded Miami to a 17-1 record.

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