CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After ending the regular season on a less-than-stellar note, the Miami Heat now have their focus back.
The Heat rolled over the Charlotte Bobcats 98-85 on Saturday night to take a 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round playoff series, leading by as many as 26 points in a dominant effort.
Coach Erik Spoelstra praised the Heat mindset, as the two-time defending NBA champions continued to build momentum after losing five of their last eight games in the regular season.
“I told the guys it was a professional approach,” Spoelstra said. “I am really happy with the focus and the way we approached the last 48 hours. I was curious to see what our mindset would be and I could tell at shoot-around this morning the guys were locked in, not only with our activity level but the focus on details, and then we went out and got it done tonight. Our approach the last 48 hours was encouraging. It was just a very professional, locked-in approach.”
Forward LeBron James led the way with 30 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
“We’re excited about our performance tonight,” James said. “Now we have to get ready tomorrow in preparation for Game 4. Once it’s here, if we play Miami Heat basketball and we defend at a high level and don’t turn the ball over offensively and move the ball like we did tonight, we have a great chance to win. Tonight, that was playing our type of basketball.”
The Heat won the first two games 99-88 and 101-97 in Miami.
“We’re healthy right now,” James said. “We have our whole team. We can go 15 deep if need be. To have that luxury and to have our rotations down right now, it’s a good time for our team.”
Miami also got 17 points from guard Dwyane Wade, 12 from forward Chris Andersen, and eight each from center Chris Bosh and guards Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and Ray Allen.
The Heat trailed 27-23 after one quarter, as Charlotte center Al Jefferson erupted for 15 first-quarter points. But the Heat went on a 16-4 run to close out the second quarter for a 58-46 halftime lead, then opened the third quarter with a 21-7 run to push the lead to 26 at 79-53. They led 86-66 after three quarters.
“They really turned up the heat defensively on us,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. “They did a good job of taking Al away after the first quarter. You have to give them credit, their defense was terrific.”
“You have to give them credit,” Charlotte guard Kemba Walker said. “They made the adjustments they needed to make after the first quarter. They’re a great, great team and they made adjustments, and then they just sort of took off and never looked back.”
Jefferson finished with 20 to lead the Bobcats, and forward Chris Douglas-Roberts came off the bench to score 17. Walker and forward Josh McRoberts scored 13 each.
But the Bobcats shot just 41.5 percent from the field and committed 14 turnovers.
“The ball has got to move,” Clifford said. “It cannot be sticking, and obviously we’ve got to get better by Monday. If they are going to get up and into us, we’ve got to be able to get that ball by them. We have to be quicker with our decisions. The ball cannot stay in one place.”
The Heat will get a chance to close out the series Monday in Game Four.
“You have to deal with so many challenges in the playoffs,” Spoelstra said. “You would like to have this kind of challenge. Now the mental challenge is staying with it. The guys understand what’s at stake. They don’t want a series to go longer than it needs to and leave it up to chance.”
NOTES: This was just the third home playoff game in Bobcats franchise history. … The Heat won 19 straight over the Bobcats, dating all the way to 2010. They are now 7-0 against Charlotte this season. … Bobcats F Josh McRoberts was in the lineup after getting fined $20,000 for his Flagrant 2 foul against Miami F LeBron James in the final minute of the Heat’s 101-97 win in Game 2 on Wednesday. … For the second straight game, Bobcats C Al Jefferson got a pregame shot of pain-killer for the plantar-fascia strain in his left foot. … Heat G Mario Chalmers played despite a right shin contusion. … The Bobcats were without C Brendan Haywood (stress fracture left foot) and F Jeffery Taylor (ruptured right Achilles tendon).
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