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Charlotte Bobcats show heart and muscle in loss to Miami Heat

Tom Sorensen
Tom Sorensen has been a columnist at The Observer for more than 20 years and has been at the paper for more than 25, writing about nearly every sport in the Carolinas.

MIAMI Game 1 went the way it was supposed to. The Charlotte Bobcats played hard before and after losing Al Jefferson, their leading scorer and rebounder, to plantar fasciitis. They lost to Miami by double figures, 99-88.

Game 2 of the first-round playoff series at AmericanAirlines Arena also was going the way it was supposed to. Jefferson started, but there were times in the first half when you pulled for him to make it all the way down the court.

If Jefferson had grabbed a walker from a fan near courtside, a nice one with thick tires and wire rims, nobody would have arrested him or called him for a foul.

The Bobcats fell behind by 13 points in the first quarter and by 16 points in the second. LeBron James was having one of those games in which he looked as if he would go for 40, with ease. And Chris Bosh, who couldn’t hit a jump shot in Game 1, hit everything.

The Bobcats rallied to move within four points twice in the third quarter and four again early in the fourth. But when they did LeBron twice scored and once set up a teammate, and the game again would go the way it was supposed to.

Because of the injury to Jefferson, you could have said that, because the Bobcats stayed fairly close they have a have a big heart and are game and gritty underdogs that overachieve.

The Heat led by 14 with 6:55 to play, by 10 with 6:16 to play and by eight with 2:31 to play.

Ah, look how valiant the Bobcats are. That Steve Clifford is one heck of a coach.

And then, at least for the visitors, the 2014 NBA playoffs began.

Gerald Henderson hit a 12-foot jump shot. Kemba Walker hit from 25 feet. Al Jefferson hit from 12 feet.

Give that fan her walker back, Big Al. Jefferson scored 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, rarely without leaving the ground.

With 50 seconds remaining, LeBron got a step and headed toward the basket, a running back nobody wanted to tackle. With every step he picked up power and speed, and whatever happened was going to move fans and teammates and perhaps SportsCenter.

But as he reached the hoop, 6-8 and 250-pound LeBron was greeted by 6-10 and 240 Josh McRoberts. And McRoberts nailed LeBron in the throat.

This was a playoff foul. But it was a playoff foul you’d see in a series between Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics and Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers.

The best player in basketball went down hard and sat on the floor, waiting to catch his breath.

With his long hair and beard, McRoberts could play a bad guy wrestler, a villain. He could except that he went to Duke.

“He’s a real strong guy and I was just trying to stop him from first getting the shot up,” says McRoberts. “I think I just got caught up in the air. It looked worse than it was.”

Would a Bobcat lie?

Walker hit a splay-legged jumper from 24 feet to, with 11.9 seconds left, pull Charlotte within a point.

After two LeBron free throws, the Bobcats set up for a tying three. Gary Neal couldn’t get one off, and the ball went to Chris Douglas-Roberts in the corner. As Kemba jumped around on the perimeter like a kid who wanted to get into the game, Douglas-Roberts lost the ball, and the Bobcats lost the game 101-97.

The series shifts to Charlotte Saturday. I have no idea what’s supposed to happen.

But don’t you want to find out?

Sorensen: 704-358-5119; tsorensen@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @tomsorensen
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