MIAMI — LeBron James drove to the rim as time was winding down, got clobbered by Josh McRoberts and sat on the hardwood gathering himself for a few seconds afterward.
It was fitting. Miami took Charlotte’s best shot, and survived.
James scored 32 points and added eight assists, Chris Bosh scored 20 points and the Heat wasted two big leads before hanging on to beat the Bobcats 101-97 on Wednesday night to take a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference first-round series.
“We can play better basketball,” James said. “We haven’t played our best basketball.”
Dwyane Wade scored 15 points, and had a steal in the final seconds to seal the win for Miami. He stripped the ball from Chris Douglas-Roberts with the Heat protecting a three-point lead with about 3 seconds left, and the Bobcats never got another shot off.
“A very instinctual, high-risk play,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “The ball’s there and you know you have an opportunity to get it when most people can’t get that, and that saved the game.”
Game 3 is Saturday in Charlotte. The Heat were the NBA’s only higher-seed to open the playoffs with two home wins.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 22 points for Charlotte, which got 18 points and 13 rebounds from Al Jefferson, who played through a left plantar fascia strain and shot 9 for 23.
Jefferson said he felt the tear worsen early on in the game, said it was “a lot of pain” but again insisted he would keep playing.
“He’s not anywhere close to 100 percent,” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. “But we can play through him. ... You’ve got to respect the fact he’s out there battling. He has no mobility, basically. Limited mobility and yet he had 18 and 13, and he fought hard.”
So was McRoberts — maybe too hard for Miami’s liking.
Miami’s lead was 97-94 with 50 seconds left when James drove and was met at the rim by McRoberts, whose right elbow struck the four-time NBA MVP around his chin. James immediately began grabbing at his throat and needed much longer than he usually does to get up after a hard foul, which was not called flagrant.
“I don’t need to see it again,” James said. “Most important thing is we won the game.”
Said McRoberts, who insisted it wasn’t intentional: “It looked a lot worse than what it was.”
James hit the second of his two free throws, making it a two-possession game — and that was critical. Kemba Walker made a 3-pointer with 11.9 seconds left to get Charlotte within one, but the Bobcats didn’t score again.
“I think we’re still really confident,” Walker said. “We just have to learn from our mistakes. ... I think we have a chance, man.”
Walker finished with 16 and Gerald Henderson scored 15 for the Bobcats. Mario Chalmers scored 11 for Miami.
So while the Heat were saying that all they have done was hold serve at home, it’s hard to find a real silver lining for Charlotte. Not only have the Bobcats now lost 18 consecutive games against Miami, but the Heat have never dropped any of the previous 11 postseason series in which they’ve grabbed a 2-0 series lead.
James, between his time in Cleveland and Miami, is 11-0 in such situations. Wade has been part of nine previous 2-0 leads with the Heat, and six of those series ended in no more than five games.
“They’re going to keep coming at us,” Wade said. “And that’s good.”
Miami’s lead was 91-77 midway through the fourth, and after blowing a big first-half lead, it appeared as though the Heat finally had some breathing room. A few minutes later, it looked a whole lot different.
Walker, Kidd-Gilchrist and Douglas-Roberts combined on a 10-0 run, getting the Bobcats within 91-87. But Bosh scored on consecutive possessions, pushing the Heat lead to eight with 3:36 remaining.
“We got out of our here with the win, but we’re going to have to tighten up a little bit,” Bosh said. “We had a little bit of slippage today.”
Miami led 57-47 at the half, and the Bobcats — who missed 17 of their first 22 shots — were fortunate, after facing a 16-point deficit at one point in the early going.
And while Charlotte kept coming back, it never led in the final 41 minutes.