CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Three observations from the Bobcats' 89-79 loss to the Heat Friday night.
1. This Miami team isn't defenseless without Wade and James.
What should have been a sure-fire mismatch between the teams with the leagues best and worst record looked anything but with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen all sidelined for the Heat.
But the Heat still managed to roll to a win that was never in doubt in the second half. They inserted Mike Miller and Rashard Lewis into the lineup and the veterans helped produce the stingiest defensive effort of the season for the Heat, limiting the Bobcats to just 30.6 percent shooting.
Theyre just tough. Theyre always there to help, Gerald Henderson said, who finished with 11 points on 2 of 16 shooting. Theyve got some good perimeter defenders. Theyre just always there. Theyre very disciplined and its tough to score on them if you dont move the ball and try to get their guys moving and their bigs out of the paint. We just struggled against it.
It didnt matter for the Bobcats that the Heats two best defenders sat in sport coats. It was a night thats resembled so many in their losses this season -- an inability to hit the three-point shot (33.6 percent, good for 27th in the NBA) cost them, going just 3 for 16 from deep.
Even more troubling for the Bobcats, and the Heat, is they got up 19 more shot attempts than the Heat by forcing 20 turnovers and outrebounded them by five. From the Heat perspective, sure LeBron, perhaps the Heats best rebounder, was out, but you still cant help but wonder if a team that ranks 30th in the NBA in rebounding can win a title?
We did a lot of good things defensively. Very active. Only area we really needed to show up was the offensive rebounds, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. We werent really putting a body on people and blocking out.
2. If Miller and Allen are dialed in, it's going to be a long postseason for opposing teams.
The Bobcats are just 2-29 when the opposing team makes 10 or more threes. Mike Miller nearly took care of that himself Friday night, burying 7 of 11.
Nights like Friday must make the thought of Miller spotted up in one corner with Allen on the opposing side and the ball in LeBrons hand a cringe-inducing one for coaches of playoff-bound teams. Even scarier, the Miller of last July was battling a back so bad he could barely play. This Miller isnt.
When you get time, you got to be aggressive, Miller said after notching 26 points. I feel great right now. Im healthy for once and its fun to get out here and compete.
The importance of the night wasnt lost on Spoelstra. Getting a shooter like Miller riding a wave of confidence before the playoffs can never be understated, and Millers moving in a way he hasnt in years.
Well, look hes a big-time weapon that we have, and he has absolutely bought into the sacrifice and the long season of an 82 game season," Spoelstra said. "This is probably the healthiest hes ever been this time of the year and you see his value. He can strike it hot at any moment and go on a string of four or five or six in a row but hes unique with his size that he can get his shot off against a lot of people.
3. Are the Heat going to come dragging into the playoffs again health-wise?
Halfway through the first quarter with the arena pretty quiet during a timeout, the home crowd erupted.
James and Wade, both dressed in street clothes, quietly emerged to join their teammates on the bench in front of a crowd filled with Heat fans.
Neither James nor Wade have played since March 29, sitting out the last three, as James continues to nurse a strained hamstring and Wade a sprained right ankle. They have the Eastern Conferences top seed locked up, but you have to wonder if their injuries are legitimate cause for concern, the type of nagging injuries that have bitten Miami in the last two postseasons? James and Wade arent the type of players that need a ton of time to get going when they come back, and if theyre truly struggling with their respective ailments like Spoelstra says, in which neither has practiced, itd be prudent to shut them down for the final seven games.
Well see, Spoelstra said on when James, Wade and Allen would be back. These guys (who played tonight) will be ready to go one way or another. Well continue to reevaluate. Our guys are doing their part, getting a great deal of treatment. Well see how everybody feels tomorrow.