For one quarter, the Charlotte-Miami game was an event. Time Warner Cable Arena was packed. Fans didn’t require a scoreboard to tell them to cheer. Big Al Jefferson was Huge Al Jefferson.
In the quarter’s final 101 seconds, Big Al hit a layup, a jump shot, a free throw, a jump shot and a layup.
He scored 15 of Charlotte’s 27 first-quarter points, and the Bobcats led 27-23.
We saw, at Time Warner Cable Arena, how good NBA playoff basketball can be.
Late in the second quarter, throughout the third and into the fourth, we saw how good the Miami Heat can be.
Yes, their offense can be dazzling. But it’s their defense that turned this game around. They offer what appears to be an opening. It’s not. Players converge, all of them with quick hands. Those Charlotte moves that lead to layups against other teams lead to the shot clock running down and nobody open against Miami.
Chris Bosh played as if he was a 6-11 cornerback. Nobody on the Heat roster is equipped to stop the 6-10, 289-pound Big Al, even with Big Al struggling with plantar fasciitis.
In the third quarter Bosh stuck to Big Al, cutting off the passing lane. Miami’s guards moved between the Charlotte guards and Jefferson. Jefferson attempted only three field goals in the quarter, and made only one. He didn’t play in the fourth.
“Those guys adjusted,” says Charlotte’s Kemba Walker. “They kind of took off and never looked back.”
The Heat outscored Charlotte by 16 in the second quarter and 9 in the third. They did whatever they wanted to whom they wanted. They wanted to win on the road – they lost their last three regular-season road games – and take shots at Josh McRoberts.
McRoberts fouled LeBron James hard on a drive in Miami Wednesday and the Heat appeared to remember. LeBron knocked McRoberts down on a drive to the hoop. Chris Anderson knocked him down once and hacked him when the opportunity presented itself and when it did not.
Even Ray Allen reached out and grabbed McRoberts jersey when McRoberts attempted to run past him.
McRoberts, in turn, intercepted LeBron on a drive and banged into him with his shoulder. Foul, McRoberts; first and 10, Miami.
McRoberts also dove for a loose ball and knocked a Miami player to the court and another Miami player tripped over him. If you can’t beat them in hoops, own them in bowling.
Charlotte had moments. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist blocked LeBron at one end. This led to a Walker fast break and Kemba went one on world, hit the basket, somehow, and drew the foul.
Later, backup Charlotte point guard Luke Ridenour put on a fake, LeBron went for it and Ridnour blew past him.
Get used to it, LeBron.
One senses LeBron did not want to lose on Michael Jordan’s court, with Jordan sitting in the front row. James stared at Jordan after a steal, stared at him as he went for the dunk, his attention on Jordan and not on the rim.
LeBron led both teams with 30 points, led both teams with 10 rebounds and tied Ridnour and Dwyane Wade with a game-high 6 assists.
“Just a very professional locked in approach,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra says of his team.
As the Heat walked down the hallway to the tunnel that leads to the court before the game, LeBron and Norris Cole in front and Greg Oden in back, nobody danced or yelled. Conversation was infrequent and muted.
They acted as if they had been here before.
They played like it, too.