The Bobcats headed into dangerous waters tonight, taking on the streaking Miami Heat at the American Airlines Arena where they haven't lost a game since January 4th. Charlotte, on the other hand, has yet to win a road game this month. Despite the absence of Dwyane Wade, who missed the game with a sore right knee, the pattern didn't change and Miami took their 11th straight victory against the Bobcats.
Charlotte also had a few players missing in action, and miss them they did. Without Josh McRoberts in the line up, Chris Bosh feasted on Byron Mullens, scoring 12 first half points. Ramon Sessions, who is still out with a knee sprain, could have proved useful to the Cats bench tonight. Without him, they scored a total of 19 points -- a chunk of those came in garbage time.
Charlotte started the game off strong, taking an 18-9 lead behind Kemba Walker's strong play and a 57 percent shooting clip. Unfortunately, the Heat called a time out after six minutes, which also marked the last time the Bobcats scored in the first quarter. LeBron James' 10-0 run supplemented a 15-0 run by the Heat, which gave them a 23-9 lead.
In the second quarter, Miami implemented a rare no-big-three line up. This should have given the Cats a little bit of breathing room but with LeBron on the bench, Ray Allen went on a run of his own. He registered two triples and a layup, completing a 23-4 run by the Heat.
Since the Cats' quick start, they shot just 29% from the field in the first half, including 1-7 from beyond the arc. They had just seven assists on their 16 made baskets, and would finish the game with just two more. The Heat, on the other hand, finished the game with 28 assists on 38 field goals. Despite all of this, Charlotte was down by just eight points. That would have been encouraging if not for the fact that the Bobcats were already outscoring the Heat in the paint and in transition.
It was business as usual for LeBron James tonight. He opened up the second half with two ferocious dunks and an acrobatic lay up that turned into an and-one. He scored 14 third-quarter points -- nailing the coffin shut for Charlotte -- and finished the game with 32 points and 10 assists. Despite his best efforts, LeBron may not even have been Miami's third quarter MVP. After the Bobcats went on a run, Dunlap -- for God knows what reason -- inserted Byron Mullens into the game. That's when it was over for good. Now, +/- may notoriously be the most unreliable stat in basketball, but Mullens' -23 mark could have been tonight's most telling statistical figure.
All in all, it doesn't exactly make sense to get down about a loss against the red-hot Miami team. However, there are things about the way Charlotte played basketball tonight that will translate into a loss no matter who the opponent is. For starters, they can't shoot 66 percent from the free-throw line as a team on a regular basis. Mullens and Jannero Pargo can't combine for ten 3-point attempts and two makes. Most importantly, they can't turn the ball over during critical junctures of the game -- especially against a team like the Heat.
It isn't all bad, though. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist gets a smiley face sticker next to his name today for his performance. Dunlap also deserves some props for giving the rookie some burn. He missed a few midrange jumpers, but he looked comfortable taking them and he finished the night with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Well, Miami's streak continues. The Heat have won 26 consecutive games, which is the second-longest streak in NBA history. The Bobcats will face off against the Heat one more time this season, and if the streak lives until then, it'll be at 32 games.