MIAMI — The Charlotte Bobcats couldn’t beat the Miami Heat over the past four years in the regular season.
The first playoff meeting between the two teams ended with the same result.
Heat forward LeBron James finished with 27 points and nine rebounds, and a rested guard Dwyane Wade finished with 23 points and five assists to lead the Heat to a 99-88 victory over the Bobcats on Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Heat have a 1-0 lead in its Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Bobcats.
“We were flat to start, but I think our guys were just anxious to get started, to finally start the postseason games,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We started to get more into our groove at the end of the first quarter. We were making a sustained effort and it was better.”
Wade, who missed 28 games this season and had averaged 22 minutes in his final three regular season games, played 33 minutes Sunday and helped the Heat overcome an early second-half deficit to win their 17th consecutive game against the Bobcats.
“Besides starting off a little slow in the first and third [quarters], I thought we played a pretty good game,” Wade said. “I didn’t have to think too much. I was just playing, making the reads.
“It is just a sign of feeling good. I want to continue to get better and get my conditioning back to where I want it to be.”
Charlotte, which is making only its second playoff appearance, has not defeated the Heat since James and center Chris Bosh joined Wade in Miami.
The Bobcats entered the playoffs having gone 20-9 since the All-Star break playing some of the more turnover-free basketball in the league. But Sunday was a different story when the Bobcats turned the ball over 15 times, which led to 20 points for the Heat.
One of the Bobcats’ primary concerns going forward in this series is the health of star center Al Jefferson.
Jefferson, who averaged 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game this season and averaged 25.3 points and 15.3 rebounds per game against the Heat, suffered an apparent plantar fasciitis injury late in the first quarter.
Jefferson finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and hit his first four shots helping the Bobcats to an early 21-12 lead. But after suffering the injury, Jefferson made only five of his next 13 attempts and appeared to be hobbling throughout the rest of the game.
“I feel a lot better now, but when it first happened there was definitely a lot of pain,” Jefferson said. “I just have to suck it up. I’ll be fine for the remainder of the playoffs. I heard something pop. I don’t know a lot of details, but I just know I’m going to be OK.”
The injury led to a definite momentum swing in the second quarter as the Heat used a 19-2 surge to take an 11-point lead.
“I thought defensively we were playing pretty good basketball,” James said. “Even though [early] we had no rhythm on offense kept grinding. We noticed [Jefferson] was laboring and we had to stay in attack mode no matter what, and put a lot of pressure on them on that end.”
The Bobcats used a 13-0 run to take a 52-49 lead with nine minutes left in the third. Forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and guard Kemba Walker (20 points) sparked the surge.
“We did some really good things,” Walker said. “We scored the ball early. We got to try to be more consistent with that and keep on executing throughout the game. We can’t get rattled.”
The Heat answered the Bobcats’ rally behind reserve James Jones who scored 12 points on 4 of 6 on 3-point shots in 14 minutes.
“[Jones] is one of the greatest shooters in the game today and to have him on the floor is great for me because he gives me so much space,” James said. “I don’t believe he’s ever going to miss when he takes a shot and that’s a great asset to have.”
James passed Larry Bird and moved into eighth place on the NBA all-time postseason scoring list with 3,898 points.
Miami used a 13-1 surge to take the lead for good and led by as many as 20 in the second half.
“We became a little more patient and direct with our attack,” Spoelstra said. “We were very poised, and you have to be able to be committed as five people and work the possessions.”
NOTES: Heat F Michael Beasley was one of two players scratched for Game 1 along with reserve C Justin Hamilton. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Beasley’s recovery from an ankle injury suffered in the team’s regular-season finale Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers had not progressed enough in recent days. … Part of the Bobcats’ success during their run to the postseason has been limiting turnovers. Charlotte averaged only 11.6 turnovers per game while compiling a 20-9 record since the All-Star break. “I know in football they talk to the quarterbacks about taking a personal responsibility and that’s really all we did,” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. … Entering this series, the Heat’s roster had started a combined 727 playoff games compared to only 15 by the Bobcats’ roster. … The Heat have won a franchise-record eight consecutive playoff series.
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