Through two games, Kemba and the Cats have given LeBron James and the defending champions more of a fight than the Heat bargained for, from its first round opponent.
James paced Miami with a game-high 32 points, eight assists and six rebounds as well as four cookies. Dwyane Wade contributed with 15 points and six rebounds. While Chris Bosh added 20 points on 8-11 shooting, including going 4-5 from beyond the arc.
Throughout this series, Charlotte has shown its youth. It was on full display in the game’s final stages. Down by 14 midway through the fourth quarter, the Bobcats valiantly fought back and a Kemba Walker three-pointer, cut Miami’s lead to one with 11.9 seconds left. But on its final possession, down by three, rather than getting the ball to Walker, Charlotte pinned its hopes on Gary Neal being able to create an open look for himself. He didn’t, and threw the ball to Chris Douglas-Roberts in the corner, who after failing to dribble his way out of the predicament, turned right into Wade, who ripped the ball out and put the Heat up two games to nothing in the series.
Walker finished with 16 points and eight assists. While Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a team-high 22 points as well as 10 rebounds. But the value of getting a young team some playoff experience is what really matters. Though it has only been two games, the benefits of the Bobcats being able to play in the postseason are visible.
Even if they don’t avoid being swept, core players such as Walker and Kidd-Gilchrist, who both won a national championship in college, are experiencing what it is like to play in the NBA playoffs. To finish an 82 game schedule, only to have to elevate your game and play your best basketball.
So, regardless of how long this series lasts, it figures to expedite the maturation process and help Charlotte’s younger players get a better understanding of how to pace themselves through the regular season and be prepared for the second season. All of this is happening while the team deals with what it is like to be down big to Miami, in the fourth quarter, inside American Airlines Arena. No, they didn’t win the game but they demonstrated that they can handle the pressure of playoff basketball, no matter who their opponent is.
So, while the two-time defending champions look to conserve as much energy as possible for the later rounds, the Bobcats are witnessing veteran leader, Al Jefferson play through a torn plantar fascia. There is nothing the team’s trainers can do for it and he can’t injure it any further, it is merely a question of how much pain he can tolerate.
Big Al is visibly in pain on the court and you can see how the injury is impacting his game, he has even had to remove himself from the game at times during the series. Still, Jefferson gutted out a 40 minute, 18 point performance and while it wasn’t the most efficient effort (9-23), he showed Walker, Kidd-Gilchrist and the rest of his teammates what playoff basketball is all about.
LeBron James: 32 points, 8 REB, 6 AST
Chris Bosh: 20 points, 8-11 FGS, 4-5 3FGS
Dwyane Wade: 15 points, 6 REB
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: 22 points, 10 REB
Al Jefferson: 18 points, 9-23 FGS
Kemba Walker: 16 points, 8 AST
Game 3 @ CHA: Saturday, April 26th, Tip: 7pm ET