The Charlotte Bobcats’ last chance of winning this playoff series expired in the third quarter Saturday night when LeBron James stripped Josh McRoberts of the ball and headed downcourt for a thunderous dunk.
That slam put the Miami Heat up by 19 points and on its way to its 19th straight victory against a Bobcats team that showed up for an energized first quarter and then deflated the rest of the night.
Now down 3-0 in their best-of-7 series against the two-time defending champions, the Bobcats gave their most disappointing home-game performance in their most important home game of the season. An arena full of hyped-up fans wearing white giveaway T-shirts turned morose quickly as the Bobcats unfurled all their problems at once in a 98-85 Miami win.
Here are eight quick thoughts about this series, Saturday night’s game and the Bobcats’ future:
This is a position that needs an upgrade. Henderson’s turnover and the silly foul he immediately committed that resulted in three free throws for LeBron at the end of the first half was only the latest evidence. That misplay was one of many that helped the Bobcats “butcher” the last few minutes of the second quarter, to use Clifford’s word.
While his defense against LeBron (30 points, 10 rebounds) was occasionally laudable, MKG got stripped of the ball several times on what should have been sure layups. With three points on 1-for-6 shooting, he was once again an offensive liability. Rookie Cody Zeller was just as bad when he got the ball down low. Zeller again had all kinds of trouble finishing the play and had zero points in 15 minutes.
Remember the Carolina Panthers’ home playoff loss three months ago against San Francisco? Or the Panthers in 2009 against Arizona? Or the Bobcats’ two home losses against Orlando in 2010?
You have to go a decade back to January 2004 to find a playoff game that the home Charlotte NFL or NBA team has actually won – that came when the Panthers whipped the Dallas Cowboys, 29-10, on the way to the Super Bowl.
It worked. Jefferson only scored five more points – his injury makes him a “shell of himself,” Clifford said, but still a good enough shell to score 20 points. And the rest of the Bobcats could not pick up the slack.
But one victory Monday night would at least salvage some credibility for the Bobcats, who are squandering some of the respect they worked so hard to attain during the regular season. Of the 16 NBA playoff teams, the Bobcats are the only one that has yet to win a postseason game.
And a win Monday would be a nice going-away present for the Bobcats’ fans, who will see the team resurrect the popular “Hornets” nickname next season. But those fans deserve more than that.
I’d say one playoff win per decade is not an unfair demand.