Some things never change. The Miami Heat sweep their way through the first round series in the playoffs, beating the Charlotte Bobcats 109-98 to make it a clean 4-0, as LeBron James has another big game despite an injury scare early in the third quarter, sparking a much better game from him.
Maybe the Bobcats would have made this a slightly tougher series if it wasn’t for Al Jefferson injuring his foot in the first game. He didn’t even play in game 4, as Bismack Biyombo started for him, unable to give the Bobcats the same offensive efficiency they get from even a 75% Jefferson. Biyombo did knee LeBron James in the third which could have turned out to be a huge accidental contribution, but it only seemed to make James more focused.
James finished the game with 30 points, exactly his average through the postseason so far. He scored 13 points on 3-of-6 from the field before the injury scare, which he says still feels sore, but added 17 points on 7-of-13 from the field after. He finished the game with 7 rebounds and 9 assists, finding it quite easy to finish near the rim, even though the Bobcats have been one of the better teams in that aspect through the season.
The Bobcats struggled all series long against the Heat’s defense, especially when it came to finishing near the rim. This is good news for Miami who have been very inconsistent on defense throughout this season, although the Bobcats don’t really have the tools to make the Heat stretch out and feel embarrassed. Without Jefferson playing, it was mostly about Kemba Walker taking the team on his back, scoring 29 points in the final game and averaging 19.5 in the series.
The Heat allowed only 48% from five feet or closer during the series, while the Bobcats shot near 60% during the regular season. Kemba Walker had a very difficult time finishing near the rim, making only 2-of-9 from that range throughout the series. A big problem for the Bobcats in game 4 and whenever the Heat “turned it on” was turnovers. They turned the ball over 16 times in game 4, allowing the Heat to score 22 points off of them.
This was about the second half and especially the third quarter, as Miami pulled away thanks to a 32-17 period. They were only 2-of-9 on catch and shoot during the first half, but made 9-of-14 for 25 points on such shots in the second half. For the series, the Heat shot 46% on catch-and-shoot attempts, seven percentage points higher than their regular season average. They knocked down nine 3-pointers, including a strong 3-of-6 performance from James Jones.
Now it’s waiting, and resting for the Heat, who will play against the Raptors or the Nets in the conference semifinals. That series is tied at 2-2, which means the Heat might have a full week to rest if it goes to seven games. Miami got Dwyane Wade back in action without exhausting him too much, averaging 17.5 points on 33 minutes a night. They’re going to need him at that kind of capacity and maybe slightly better to make this a worthy three-peat challenge, even though the East is turning out to be a lot weirder than anyone expected.