On the face of it, a 13-point loss even to the reigning NBA champions is hardly cause for the Charlotte Bobcats to pat themselves on the back. This was 16 in a row, after all.
But there was progress on several fronts during Wednesdays 105-92 home loss to the Miami Heat. Nuanced progress, for sure, but progress nonetheless.
The Bobcats were down by as many as 19 in the first half and showing every sign of capitulating the way they did in Phoenix, Golden State and Denver last week. But during the second half they toughened up, trimming the deficit to two before their shot slipped away.
The second-half statistics were telling. They outscored the Heat 54-50 and committed just six turnovers. That cut down on Miamis constant run-outs from the first half.
Im unaccepting of our turnover count of late, coach Mike Dunlap said. Whether on the road or wherever, we need to be around 12 a game.
The effect was apparent: After scoring 32 points in the lane during the first half, the Heat scored eight during the second. Miami also didnt have a single second-chance point (points resulting from offensive rebounds) after halftime.
In other words, the Bobcats (7-21) gave themselves a chance. Point guards Kemba Walker (27 points) and Ramon Sessions (19) attacked the rim constantly, particularly when Heat coach Erik Spoelstra kept Mike Miller in the game. As good of a shooter as Miller can be, he cant move his feet enough to guard well, and he was constantly targeted by Charlottes offensive players.
Not that this was enough to overcome LeBron James (27 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists) and Dwyane Wade (29 points), but the Bobcats did frustrate Miamis superstars to the point that Wade kicked Sessions in the groin in the second half. No foul was called, which surprised Sessions.
I thought he did it on purpose, and it wasnt called, said Sessions, who made seven of 12 shots from the field.
The other development was the successful debut of power forward Hakim Warrick as a starter. Warrick was filling in for Byron Mullens, who figures to miss several weeks with a severe ankle sprain.
Warrick finished with 18 points and nine rebounds, quite a change from when he didnt even play in three of the Bobcats previous five games. Acquired in a November trade, it took a while for Warrick to adjust to Dunlaps defensive rotations. But Wednesday showed why they traded for him.
He brings an experience he knows how to play basketball, Walker said of seven-season veteran Warrick. You throw it down low to him, and you expect a basket.