For the record, it was one dribble for one half of the length of the entire court.
That’s 47 feet … with one bounce of the ball … and then a massive, strutting, fully extended signature dunk by LeBron James to give AmericanAirlines Arena something extraordinary on a night when a business-like approach is all that was really needed.
The breathtaking, breakaway dunk happened in the second quarter of the Heat’s 101-97 victory against the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night in Game 2 of a first-round playoff series that’s starting to feel like a potential sweep for the two-time defending champions. The Heat now leads the best-of-7 series 2-0. Game 3 is on Saturday in Charlotte, N.C.
James likely will have plenty of fans there — he always has — and no doubt he will want to put on a show in Michael Jordan’s arena. James’ fast-break dunk on Wednesday in Game 2 probably even made Jordan blush.
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James stole a pass in transition beyond midcourt and punched the turnover ahead of himself toward the Heat’s basket. He caught up to the ball in midstride, put it on the floor once and then took two kingly strides through the lane for a dunk that will become the stuff of legend one day. It was one of 11 field goals for James, who finished with 32 points. He was 9 of 12 from the free-throw line and also had six assists and eight rebounds.
“The guy is unbelievably athletic,” said Dwyane Wade, who finished with 15 points. “Especially when he gets a full head of steam, you don’t know what he can do. One dribble from half court … I’ll tell you what, he doesn’t practice that.”
The dunk was spectacular, but James also did the little things for his team on a night execution was anything but perfect for the Heat. Up by three in the final minute, James sacrificed his body to get to the free-throw line, taking an elbow to the throat by Bobcats forward Josh McRoberts. James made 1 of 2 from the foul line to give the Heat a four-point lead. Miami would need every point.
“We can play better basketball,” James said. “We haven’t played our best basketball.”
A three-pointer by Kemba Walker with 11.9 seconds left cut the Heat’s lead to 98-97. The Bobcats’ possession came by way of a miscommunication between James and Mario Chalmers with 20 seconds left.
The untimely turnover added some drama to a series that has lacked it so far. Unmoved by the mistake, James coolly stepped to the line with 10 seconds left and knocked down a pair of pressure-packed free throws to give the Heat a 100-97 lead.
The Bobcats couldn’t get off a shot on their final possession, with Wade pulling the ball out of Chris Douglas-Roberts’ hands with two seconds left. Wade then made 1 of 2 free throws to ice the game.
“It was an instinctual, high-risk play,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Wade’s 15 points came in 35 minutes. He was 4 of 10 from the field to go along with 7 of 9 from the free-throw line.
“I just saw that [Douglas-Roberts] was bobbling the ball a little bit, and I was right there,” Wade said of the clutch strip. “I just grabbed it. If he was going up for a shot, I wouldn’t have done it, but [Chalmers] did a great job of corralling him in the corner, and I just got an opportunity to make a play.”
Four points in a row by Chris Bosh, including a nifty, running layup with 3:36 left in the game, gave the Heat a 95-87 lead. Bosh finished with 20 points, going 8 of 11 from the field and 4 of 5 from three-point range.
Chalmers, a game-time decision because of a bruised shin sustained in Game 1, had 11 points, going 3 of 7 from the field, 2 of 4 from three-point range and 3 of 4 from the free-throw line.
The Bobcats had a chance to tie with 1:10 left in the game, but a three-pointer by Douglas-Roberts was off the mark.
So overmatched is Charlotte in this series, but the “under-cats” certainly haven’t played without heart. Center Al Jefferson played 40 minutes despite a torn tendon in his foot and had 18 points and 13 rebounds. Walker had 16 points, going 5 of 18 from the field and 4 of 9 from three-point range.
“You do have to credit Charlotte,” Spoelstra said. “They hung around. They didn’t make it easy for us when we got up 13-15 to break it open to 20. They kept on competing.”
The Heat forced 15 turnovers for the second game in a row but committed 17 turnovers. Despite the sloppy play, the Heat shot 52.2 percent from the field and was 9 of 23 from three-point range. The Bobcats shot 42 percent from the field.
McRoberts’ aggressive foul on James with 50 seconds left was not elevated to a flagrant foul by officials, but that ruling could be changed by the league on Thursday. McRoberts left his feet and elbowed James in the throat. James sat under the basket for several seconds in obvious pain. His thoughts on the hit?
“My reaction was I was trying to catch my breath,” James said.