The Miami Heat won a close game last night in Orlando, in which their Captain, Dwayne Wade, suffered a back injury when fouled by Dwight Howard. It wasn’t certain if he’d play as close as an hour before game time. So what’d he do? Oh, nothing, just post his first triple double since 2006. Naturally.
But Wade’s 22/12/10 line was hardly the only thing the Heat had going for them. Fresh off his 51-point destruction of Orlando, LeBron James posted a near triple double with 19 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists. The final member of the so-called “Heatles,” Chris Bosh, added 14 points, while Zydrunas Ilgauskas dropped 13, Mike Miller went 4-4 for 13 points, and former Bobcat Eddie House tossed in 16 for good measure. Despite all that, and not having Eduardo Najera (illness) in addition to the already disabled Tyrus Thomas and DeSagana Diop, the Bobcats hung in for nearly the entire game. For the first time this season, both Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace had stellar performances on the same night, scoring 25 apiece. Wallace added 10 rebounds and Jackson had 5 assists. Gerald Henderson continued his rise into the 6th man role, playing 29 minutes and going 6-10 from the field for 14 points, along with 3 blocks. Boris Diaw had 14 points and 9 rebounds, but after those four, you’re hard pressed to find a mediocre statline, much less a good one. DJ Augustin, who should’ve had a great game against a poor Heat point guard rotation, went 1-6 (1-4 threes) and had 5 turnovers. Kwame Brown, who has played above-average of late, also should’ve had a good game against a below-average and generally soft big man rotation that is the Miami frontcourt. But he instead had 6 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 fouls in just 20 minutes of play. Nazr Mohammed, the only big man on the bench tonight, played only 5 minutes and had as many fouls as points (2). Henderson was the only member of the bench to score more than 4 points, and he and Derrick Brown were the only reserves who played more than 5 minutes.
But to hell with statistics. If you saw the game, then you know what I mean when I say the Bobcats played well. In addition to being down to 2 centers and one power forward, the ‘Cats were handicapped with foul trouble. Don’t get me wrong, I hate complaints. And even if the officiating was fair, Charlotte still would’ve lost. But when Gerald Henderson was whistled for an offensive foul (for using his elbow to knock down Dwayne Wade), and on the ensuing possesion, directly in front of official Brent Barnaky, LeBron James uses the same move to knock down Stephen Jackson, and isn’t called for a foul, you know it’s a long night. A few possesions after that, once again in front of the clearly clueless (or biased, your choice) Barnaky, James pulled the same move. And with the same result. Captain Jack was lying on the ground, and Miami was sinking a three. I’m not trying to make it sound like the Bobcats were screwed out of a victory, because LeBron sat in the first half in foul trouble because of some equally horrible calls. Both Kwame Brown and Nazr Mohammed had two fouls in the first quarter, and Chris Bosh is the only starter for either team who had less than 3 personal fouls. Mike Miller was whistled for four fouls in just 19 minutes. Yet when it came time to enforce the rules, the previously whistle-happy officiating crew (Bernaky was joined in his ineptitude by Derrick Stafford and Matt Boland) refused to call anything on the Heat’s “Big Three.” Even though Dwayne Wade and Stephen Jackson, and later Wade and Gerald Wallace got into shoving matches, none were ever T’d up. James argued with the refs nearly the entire game (a clear violation of Commissioner Stern’s new rules) yet the only one to receive a technical in the entire game was Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. Like I said, none of this would’ve changed the outcome of the game, because Miami is clearly the better team, but the fact that officials have any place in affecting the outcome of a game is worrisome.
Another thing that’s worrisome is how piss-poor the Bobcats are at guarding the perimeter. Miami made 9 of it’s 19 3 point attempts, and missed a few more that were as open as a Walmart Supercenter at three in the morning. To start the second half, Eddie House hit consecutive three pointers on the same play because Sherron Collins was too slow to get to him. Multiple times Mike Miller was open because Gerald Wallace and Gerald Henderson didn’t rotate properly. Mario Chalmers got several open looks off of DJ Augustin. And while it wasn’t a three, Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored only because Kwame Brown (and later Boris Diaw) left him wide open for jumpers that were clearly in his range. While some of this comes from the team’s best defender (Gerald Wallace) being sub par on perimeter defense, more of it is because Kwame Brown, the anchor of the defense (wow, who would’ve thought of that in the summer), was limited in his playing time. I understand the need to go small, but Kwame needs to play at least 30 minutes no matter what. He moves well enough for a big that he’s not a problem against faster teams, and when Kwame doesn’t play, the defensive rotations suffer. But even that doesn’t solve everything, because Kwame can’t teach Gerald Henderson how not to foul, he can’t teach Sherron Collins speed, and he can’t teach Gerald Wallace effort in defending a shooter. But hey, Rome can’t be built in a day, so I’ll take what I can get. And what I can get is a solid team that mostly tries, and in the Eastern Conference this season, that’s enough to make the playoffs. No excuses.
Notes: Stephen Jackson led the team’s dance during introductions, a duty normally left for rookies as part of hazing…the Bobcats debuted their new introductory video, previously the team used a video that had just scrubbed out Larry Brown…Ric Flair elicited his famous “whooooooo” when displayed on the video board…Michael Jordan was in his courtside seat, but was not as animated as usual in his protests to officials…The Bobcats play Dallas tomorrow night, and Boston on Monday to wrap up this homestand.