The Miami Heat survived first- and third-quarter surges from the Charlotte Bobcats, pulling away in the final frame for a 99-88 victory Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Miami was led by superstar forward LeBron James, who scored 27 points on 8-of-16 shooting, including 4-of-8 from downtown.
His effort carried him past the legendary Larry Bird in terms of playoff scoring:
Charlotte was led early by Al Jefferson, who scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. The momentum of the game shifted dramatically when he strained the plantar fascia in his left foot. He played after the first-half injury but was noticeably hobbled.
Kemba Walker and Gary Neal tried to pick up the scoring load—they combined for 37 points—but 13-of-31 shooting and eight turnovers hurt their cause.
Miami wins by 11. The difference: 20 points off turnovers, compared to just 5 for Bobcats.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 20, 2014
Key Player Grades: Miami Heat
LeBron James, Small Forward/Power Forward
Despite being slowed down for most of three quarters against the defense of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Chris Douglas-Roberts, LeBron still managed to be the most impactful player for the Heat.
In addition to the raw point total, he grabbed nine rebounds and hit two huge threes as the third quarter was winding down to seize momentum for Miami.
And while he's not the defender he used to be, LeBron is still, for lack of a better analogy, the middle linebacker of the Heat defense. He does a great job of communicating with his teammates on that end and makes sure everyone is on the same page.
Dwyane Wade, Shooting Guard
The so-called demise of Wade looks wildly overstated after Miami's first playoff game of the 2014 postseason run.
Wade looks like Wade as the playoffs start. The maintenance program, by that measure, was a success.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 20, 2014
After sitting out 28 games in the regular season, he looked fresh all game long, scoring both in transition and off the dribble in the half court.
Spoelstra says Wade "probably wanted to be cleared about a week before we cleared him."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 20, 2014
He was also solid defensively, helping to hold Charlotte's third-leading scorer, Gerald Henderson, to six points on 3-of-9 shooting.
Chris Bosh, Power Forward/Center
Even as he was defended for much of the game by a one-legged Jefferson, Bosh struggled to get going offensively. He scored just 13 points on 4-of-13 from the field.
The problem now with Bosh is that he often fails to make an impact in other areas of the game when his shot isn't falling. Such was the case Sunday, as he grabbed just four boards and had a terrible time trying to stop Jefferson.
Mario Chalmers, Point Guard
Chalmers' primary responsibility in this series will be slowing down Walker. On Sunday, he did a decent job with that task in stretches, but he allowed Walker to go off at the start of the third quarter in a run that gave the Bobcats a temporary lead.
Any scoring or distributing that Chalmers does will be a bonus. He finished with seven points and two assists while shooting 3-of-7 from the field.
Udonis Haslem, Power Forward/Small Forward
There seems to be no rhyme or reason to lineups and rotations with Erik Spoelstra. It's completely random.
He went with Haslem over Shane Battier to start this series, which had almost no impact on the game.
Haslem played just 13 minutes, scoring two points on 0-of-2 shooting.
James Jones, Shooting Guard
Here's another byproduct of the jumbled substitutions of Spoelstra: Some random guy steps up and has a huge impact in the postseason for Miami every year.
It looks like that guy could be James Jones in 2014. After barely sniffing the floor throughout the regular season, he played 14 critical minutes. He poured in 12 points off the bench while shooting 4-of-6 from the field.
Spoelstra on James Jones: "He's one of those unique players that you can pull out of your bullpen. We learned that early."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 20, 2014
And he wasn't just producing by way of the three-point shot. In atypical Jones fashion, he got a few buckets off the dribble.
Reserves Chris Andersen and Norris Cole also made an impact on the game.
With a little help from a foot injury, Andersen slowed down Al Jefferson after a hot start to the game. He also grabbed 10 rebounds to go along with his eight points.
He got posterized by McBob, but Chris Andersen was an absurd +28 in 22 minutes today.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) April 20, 2014
Cole shot the ball well in his limited role, hitting 3-of-5 from the field on the way to seven points.
Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis went 0-of-6 for zero points.
Key Player Grades: Charlotte Bobcats
Al Jefferson, Center
Jefferson's game served as a look at what could have been in this series.
He started the game 4-of-4 from the field, dominating inside and helping the Bobcats establish a great rhythm and build an early lead.
Then he strained the plantar fascia in his left foot, and everything changed. He limped to the locker room and came back a few minutes later a different player. For the remainder of the game, you could clearly see he wasn't himself.
If he remains hobbled for the rest of the series, the Bobcats could be cooked.
Kemba Walker, Point Guard
For a brief stretch that started toward the end of the second quarter and lasted into the third, it looked like Walker was going to channel his 2011 NCAA tournament self and carry his team to an improbable win.
Kemba just inspired JVG to shout-out the And1 Mixtape so pretty much a great day.— netw3rk (@netw3rk) April 20, 2014
With the Bobcats down 10, he hit a buzzer-beating three to end the half. He then led a charge after the break that got Charlotte a one-point lead. The edge proved to be temporary, as Miami took over the game about halfway through the third and never looked back.
Josh McRoberts, Power Forward
Charlotte's point forward McRoberts was a steady presence throughout the game, on the way to 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. He shot 6-of-9 from the field, including 3-of-5 from three-point range.
He also showed us some of the explosiveness that made him a top prospect coming out of high school on a huge dunk over Chris Andersen.
Defensively, he was solid in stretches against Bosh and had no problems with Haslem.
Gerald Henderson, Shooting Guard
Henderson has been a reliable source of scoring as a third option behind Jefferson and Walker all season long. Sunday, he tried to fill that role in a way he rarely did before the postseason started.
On the year, he shot 34.8 percent from long range while taking 1.5 threes per game. He went 0-of-3 from downtown against Miami and finished the game with six points.
Going forward, he'll have to figure out how to get into the paint against Wade. Charlotte will need his scoring if it wants a chance to win some games in this series.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Small Forward
As the Bobcats tried to keep pace with Miami's offense, Kidd-Gilchrist spent most of the game on the bench. He's simply not reliable on offense. He finished with five points on 2-of-4 shooting in 14 minutes.
What he does do well is rebound and defend. And during his limited time on the floor, he made an impact in those areas. In terms of rebounding, he snagged seven. And on defense, no one's going to stop LeBron, but MKG at least made it difficult on a few possessions.
Gary Neal, Shooting Guard
When it landed Neal in a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte's front office may have had visions of the former San Antonio Spurs sharpshooter lighting up the Heat during the 2013 NBA Finals. We caught glimpses of that Sunday, as he went for 17 points.
They were just glimpses, though. He finished the game 7-of-16 from the field, and some of his shots were thoroughly contested and ill-advised.
The Bobcats needed him to push in this one, but he may need to be more selective as the series goes on.
The only other player who got significant time off Charlotte's bench was Douglas-Roberts. He didn't do much offensively—shooting the ball only once and finishing with one point—and was abused by LeBron on the other end.
LeBron was 5 for 6 for 15 points vs Chris Douglas-Roberts, 3 for 10 for 12 points vs all other defenders— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 20, 2014
Others off the bench included Luke Ridnour, who went 1-of-5 in 10 minutes, and Cody Zeller, who scored four points and shot 2-of-3
On this Easter Sunday, lots of hopes and prayers from Bobcats fans over Jefferson's foot are likely next.
If Charlotte has any chance in this series, it's contingent upon what the big man can do. If he's not at 100 percent, the series may already be over.
As for Miami, it'll just need to continue doing what it's doing: play energized defense and capitalize off turnovers.
Game 2 will be Wednesday in Miami at 7 p.m. ET.
Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.