The Miami Heat trounced the Charlotte Bobcats 98-85 Saturday night to take a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals behind 30 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and two steals from LeBron James.
After trailing by four points at the end of the first quarter, Miami exploded for 35 points in the second quarter and 28 in the third, outscoring the opposition by 25 during that span.
LeBron James finishes with 30 pts, 10 rebs & 6 assts as the Heat beat the Bobcats 98-85 to take a 3-0 series lead pic.twitter.com/ZpYPdVYK99— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 27, 2014
The Heat went on to coast to victory behind three double-figure scorers, 43.4 percent shooting from the field and 50 percent shooting from three.
Conversely, the Bobcats shot just 41.5 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from beyond the arc in the loss. In league history, no team has ever overcome a 3-0 postseason series deficit.
"It was just a very professional, locked in approach," Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said following the win, according to Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick.
According to STATS LLC, Miami has now won 19 straight games over the Bobcats, its longest win streak over a team in franchise history.
Al Jefferson led Charlotte with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting and five rebounds, but once again the Bobcats didn't have the offensive guns to hang with the Heat.
Players are graded on a conventional A to F scale, with each contributor starting at a C and moving up or down based on the quality of his performance.
However, it's important to note that role players and reserves are graded on a curve due to their generally smaller allotment of minutes.
Key Players: Miami Heat
LeBron James, Small Forward
Miami's offense sputtered early, and James' lack of aggression was a major reason why.
After scoring seven points on 3-of-7 shooting in the first quarter, he didn't make a field goal until 36 seconds were remaining in the second period.
But somehow, he wound up scoring seven points in the final half-minute of the quarter, which helped propel Miami to a 12-point edge at the break.
In typical LeBron fashion, the two-time champion was halfway to a triple-double by the time intermission came around, amassing 16 points, five assists and four rebounds in his first 18 minutes.
LeBron with the most casual 16, 4 and 5 at the half.— Jared Dubin (@JADubin5) April 27, 2014
From there on out, it was smooth sailing for LeBron.
LeBron now has 18 points on nine shots, plus six rebounds and five assists. Toying with Charlotte now.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 27, 2014
Miami's offense coasted after a sluggish opening period, and combined with Charlotte's offensive ineptitude, James and Co. were able to cruise to victory.
Dwyane Wade, Shooting Guard
It took Dwyane Wade until the eight-minute mark in the second quarter to enter the scoring column, but that bucket appeared to boost his aggressiveness and confidence.
A 3-of-8 start was hardly ideal, but Wade was determined to facilitate and tied James with a team-high five first-half assists.
All in all, Saturday was another opportunity for Wade to play the role of sidekick, and he did so effectively. James was at the offensive controls throughout, and truthfully, a blowout was likely the best outcome for Wade, as he was provided more opportunities to rest.
A reminder: Wade went 1 of 12 for four points in Game 3 of the Heat's 2013 first-round series against the Bucks. He's feeling better.— Joseph Goodman (@JoeGoodmanJr) April 27, 2014
His final line consisted of 17 points on 7-of-16 shooting, six assists, three rebounds and one steal.
Chris Bosh, Center
Working against a center like Jefferson whose mobility has been impaired, Bosh and the Heat aimed to stretch the floor and make the big man move.
And given the success that Bosh has had in the jump-shooting department this series, it shouldn't come as a surprise to learn that the strategy worked.
Two of his first three conversions in Game 3 came from beyond the arc, but he wasn't exactly the focal point of Miami's offense. He attempted just four shots in the first half and three over the game's final 24 minutes.
Bosh went on to finish with eight points on 3-of-7 shooting (2-of-2 from three), four rebounds and three dimes on a relatively quiet night.
Mario Chalmers, Point Guard
There was nothing flashy about Mario Chalmers' showing, but he was consistent, racking up eight points (3-of-6 shooting), four assists and four rebounds while posting a gaudy plus-17 rating in the win.
A fairly disappointing Game 2 that saw him go minus-15 is now firmly in the rearview mirror with Miami eyeing a sweep.
Udonis Haslem, Power Forward
This was a fairly run-of-the-mill performance from Udonis Haslem.
Miami's elder statesman logged the fewest minutes of any starter (12), scoring just four points while grabbing two rebounds and committing five fouls.
There isn't much to discuss given that James and Wade dominated the scoring, but Haslem contributed yet another workmanlike effort.
Ray Allen, Sixth Man
Entering Game 3, Ray Allen had scored a combined two points over 41 minutes across the series' first two games.
Ray Allen doing all the talking in the Heat's 5-man huddle before taking the floor.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 26, 2014
Fortunately for Miami, the greatest three-point shooter in postseason history exceeded that point total during his first five minutes on the floor after nailing a triple from the top of the key and converting a layup.
A component of Miami's offensive onslaught, Allen dropped eight points on 3-of-6 shooting (2-of-4 from three) and appeared to regain some much-needed confidence.
Aside from Allen's increased production, Spoelstra's most active bench body was Chris Andersen, and it wasn't even close.
Not only was his help defense on the blocks desperately needed to combat Jefferson's variety of scoring methods, but his ability to draw fouls steadied Miami's offense a bit.
All told, "Birdman" finished with 12 points (4-of-7 shooting) and seven rebounds, while bench bodies Norris Cole and James Jones scored eight and three points, respectively. However, it should be noted that Jones came up with a timely block in the second quarter that put him in some rather awkward company:
James Jones now has one fewer blocks this postseason than Roy Hibbert.— Shandel Richardson (@ShandelRich) April 27, 2014
Key Players: Charlotte Bobcats
Al Jefferson, Center
Apparently Al Jefferson didn't need two healthy feet to wreak havoc on Miami's defense:
Al Jefferson's 15 first-quarter points are a Bobcats playoff record.— Shandel Richardson (@ShandelRich) April 26, 2014
Simply dominating on the low block, he poured in 15 first-quarter points on 7-of-9 shooting during a frame where Charlotte outscored the Heat by four.
Issue with Jefferson isn't that he's scoring in the post, it's that he's getting the ball in the post so easily. Little ball denial so far.— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) April 26, 2014
Al Jefferson could get some of that Hakeem money for taking folks to post-up school.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) April 26, 2014
In addition, Jefferson scored his team's final 13 points of the first period, which once again exposed Miami's inferiority in the post.
Just want to remind Heat fans again -- as they watch Al Jefferson play in post -- that they spent 6 months sweating Roy Hibbert— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 26, 2014
Al Jefferson's 17 already the most by any player in a half in Bobcats playoff history (seven games total).— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) April 27, 2014
But as Jefferson picked the Heat apart, Miami was formulating a plan to slow the fearsome big man down by sending plenty of double-teams.
Those tactics limited him to two second-quarter points and 20 total on 8-of-13 shooting, and Charlotte's troupe of inconsistent offensive weapons couldn't provide the support necessary to keep the Bobcats afloat.
He gave a noble effort, especially considering the injury he's battling through, but Jefferson won't be able to carry the load solo in Game 4.
Kemba Walker, Point Guard
Overshadowed by Jefferson's dominance early, Kemba Walker played within himself and did a nice job of managing the game for the Bobcats, picking and choosing his spots when applicable.
Distributing with confidence, he racked up five assists while chipping in 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting.
Miami's tight defense in the pick-and-roll largely held Walker in check, but it was encouraging that he didn't look to force the issue on offense.
That said, it's worth noting that he finished the first half with a team-worst minus-15 rating and a final rating of minus-26.
Gerald Henderson, Shooting Guard
Like the rest of Charlotte's wings, Gerald Henderson wasn't able to muster the sort of steady offensive output he generated in Game 2.
His 21 minutes yielded just six points on 2-of-6 shooting (0-of-2 from three), and his defense on James was hardly up to snuff.
The trademark feistiness we're used to seeing from the strong wing defender will need to reappear come Game 4 if the Bobcats want to avoid a sweep.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Small Forward
Following a 22-point, 10-rebound outburst in Game 2, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist sought to bring similar energy to start Game 3.
A made jumper early on was encouraging enough (seriously, his shooting stroke is broken beyond repair), but his intensity on both ends of the floor appeared to spark Charlotte's feisty starting lineup.
However, as Miami started to mount a charge, Kidd-Gilchrist's effectiveness waned, due in part to carelessness with the ball.
A shade more than 16 percent shooting from the field and 1-of-4 shooting from the free-throw line continued to exemplify the former No. 2 overall pick's offensive struggles. He managed three points to go with a team-high four turnovers and five rebounds.
Josh McRoberts, Power Forward
It's pretty strange, but Josh McRoberts has transformed into one of the Bobcats' most reliable playmakers with the ball in his hands. And that's saying something, because he wasn't exactly in the zone Saturday.
Although his playmaking ability was on display in the form of some nice court vision and off-the-dribble aggression, his night (13 points, a team-high nine rebounds, two assists) will be remembered more for a hard foul on LeBron than anything else.
Gary Neal, Sixth Man
With the Bobcats desperately in need of reinforcements from beyond the arc, Gary Neal failed to deliver for the second straight game.
A 1-of-8 showing in Game 2 foreshadowed his underwhelming effort in Game 3, which was highlighted by nine points (four of which came at the charity stripe) on 2-of-8 shooting from the field and 1-of-3 shooting from three.
With Neal largely out of the picture, Charlotte needed a bench body to step up and generate some offense.
Chris Douglas-Roberts answered the call and did so admirably to the tune of 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting in 25 minutes, including six points on 2-of-3 shooting in the first half.
Luke Ridnour was incredibly solid as well, dishing out a team-high six assists while scoring three points in 18 minutes. Charlotte was a team-best plus-11 with Ridnour on the floor.
Game 4 will be played Monday at 7 p.m. ET on TNT in Charlotte. Game 5, if necessary, will take place on Wednesday, April 30 at a time to be determined.