The Charlotte Bobcats have never won a playoff game.
On Wednesday, their best player, forward Al Jefferson, was playing on one healthy leg, and the Bobcats were facing the two-time NBA champion Miami Heat in their own building and in full health.
And, oh yes, the Bobcats had to deal with Heat forward LeBron James and his 32 points, six rebounds and eight assists.
Yet, somehow, Charlotte had a chance to tie the score in the final 10 seconds before losing 101-97 Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Heat leads the best-of-seven first-round Eastern Conference playoff series 2-0. Game 3 will be played Saturday at Charlotte.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was asked if was surprised by “the fight of the Bobcats.”
Normally patient with the media, Spoelstra bristled.
“That’s absurd,” he said. “Not in the playoffs. Once you get to this level, it gets highly competitive.
“We expect a dogfight in Charlotte.“
Wednesday’s game was a little like that, too, especially after Charlotte cut a 16-point deficit to three. A 3-pointer by guard Kemba Walker and a runner by Jefferson made the score 97-94 with 1:42 left.
After a miss by Heat forward Chris Bosh, Charlotte had a chance to tie, but guard Chris Douglas-Roberts was off the mark on a 3-point try.
James made one free throw with 50 seconds left after taking a hard foul by forward Josh McRoberts, who may face a league penalty for the hit.
“I was just trying to catch my breath,“ said James, who declined to comment on whether he thought it was a flagrant foul.
Walker, who had 16 points, then made another 3-pointer with 11 seconds left to cut Miami’s lead to 98-97.
Miami finally put Charlotte away on two free throws by James with 10 seconds left and guard Dwyane Wade’s steal against Douglas-Roberts on the Bobcats’ final possession.
“He wasn’t my man,“ said Wade, who had 15 points. “But I saw him bobble the ball and made a play.“
Bosh credited Wade — and Spoelstra.
“Dwyane made the correct play,“ said Bosh, who had 20 points and hit 4 of 5 3-pointers. “(Spoelstra) gives us the freedom to rely on our intelligence and make plays.
“We had a little bit of slippage (in the game), but we got out of here with the win.”
Charlotte was led by forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds.
“That was the best game he has played as a pro,” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. “He set the tone defensively. He was attacking the basket. He had three offensive rebounds. He played an all-around game.”
Charlotte also got a courageous effort from Jefferson, who played 40 minutes despite a painful foot injury. He scored 12 of his 18 points after halftime and finished with 13 rebounds.
“I thought he was better in the second half when he got more comfortable with his foot, but obviously he was nowhere close to 100 percent,” Clifford said. “He had no mobility.”
Miami led by as many as 13 points in the first quarter, but Bobcats guard Luke Ridnour banked in a 3-pointer from beyond the top of the key at the buzzer to cut their deficit to 29-19 at the end of the quarter.
James scored 12 points in the first quarter and six in the second as the Heat took a 57-47 lead at halftime.
“We started the game well, but as soon as we subbed, our defense went down and our turnovers went up,” Clifford said. “In the second half, we subbed a lot less.”
Heat PG Mario Chalmers started despite a deep bruise on his left shin and finished with 11 points, including nine in the first quarter. … Bobcats F Al Jefferson started despite a left foot injury that required two cortisone shots before the game. He left the game briefly during the first quarter, went to the locker room, got his foot retaped and returned. … Heat F Chris Bosh’s 6.6-rebound average during the season was a career low. His scoring average of 16.2 was the lowest since his rookie season of 2003-2004. … Bobcats coach Steve Clifford on his boss, team president Michael Jordan: “He will text me with what he sees. He knows our team well and can identify our players’ strengths individually. He knows what we’re trying to do, and he’s a great resource for me. I appreciate how he treats me — he gives suggestions but lets me know I’m the coach.”