The Miami Heat continued their season-long dominance over the Charlotte Bobcats in Game 3 on Saturday night with a 98-85 win. The Heat now lead the series 3-0.
While the early portion of the game appeared to favor the Bobcats in a big way, it didn't take long for the Heat to regain control.
The first quarter was all Al Jefferson.
Jefferson was on fire, scoring 15 points early in the game, leading the Bobcats to a 27-23 lead over the Heat after the first.
NBA on ESPN tweeted Jefferson's first-quarter numbers:
Those numbers set a new record for the Bobcats, according to the team's Twitter account:
STAT: Al Jefferson's 15pts in the 1st quarter is the most by any Cats player in a quarter in franchise playoff history #HEATvBOBCATS— Charlotte Bobcats (@bobcats) April 26, 2014
John Schuhmann of NBA.com tweeted his impression of Jefferson's early performance:
Al Jefferson could get some of that Hakeem money for taking folks to post-up school.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) April 26, 2014
Jefferson's early-game heroics may have changed head coach Steve Clifford's pregame comments about his injured big man, according to a tweet from Bleacher Report's Ethan J. Skolnick:
Steve Clifford on Al Jefferson: "I don't see a lot of chance for him to get a lot better, honestly."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 26, 2014
Miami simply didn't have an answer for Jefferson in the paint early on, as he went on a scoring spree while the rest of the team played solid, fundamental basketball, capitalizing on many opportunities and avoiding costly turnovers.
Kemba Walker got into the action early on. He showed his prowess on this three-point play, tweeted by NBA on ESPN:
Unfortunately for Charlotte, that wouldn't last.
LeBron James and Co. went on a tear in the second quarter.
James led the way finishing the first half with 16 points while hitting seven-of-eight attempts from the foul line.
Not only was James effective as a shot-maker, but he distributed the ball nicely as well. He fed Chris Anderson on the inside and Mario Chalmers on the perimeter, racking up five assists on the half.
How good did LeBron look in the second quarter? NBA on ESPN tweeted out what may have been the shot of the game to that point:
Miami gave Charlotte fits on the defensive end as well.
The Heat clamped down on Jefferson in the second quarter, limiting him to just two points. Walker found limited success, scoring seven points on highly contested shots.
Gerald Henderson summed up the second quarter for the Bobcats, fouling James in three-point range with just 0.2 seconds remaining, putting LeBron at the line.
The Heat's Twitter account relayed the situation:
After James sank all three attempts, the Heat went into the half up 58-46.
ESPN Stats & Info tweeted the numbers from the Heat's late-half run:
Heat outscored Bobcats 16-4 in final 4:30 of the 1st half. Heat lead 58-46 at the half. Watch live on ESPN or http://t.co/PXlSM04k80.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 27, 2014
The Heat continued to pour it on in the third, extending their lead to 17 after a Dwyane Wade putback dunk on a James miss.
Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweeted his thoughts after the jam:
Wade with the dunk follow, 64-47. Will Bobcats ever win a playoff game? They have one more chance (before becoming Charlotte Hornets again).— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) April 27, 2014
Here's a look at Wade's slam courtesy of the NBA's Twitter account:
Wade wasn't the only one getting in on the action. James decided to stare down Michael Jordan while on a fast-break shortly after. Here's a look courtesy of a tweet from GifdSports:
Lebron stares down Michael Jordan while dunking https://t.co/Nzrm1DuIAE— gifdsports (@gifdsports) April 27, 2014
James spoke of his attempt to spark his team heading into the second half—which apparently worked—during a press conference with the Associated Press, via ESPN.com:
"I put it on my shoulders tonight to close out the [second] quarter the right way. And I think that resulted in the way we started the third quarter."
Miami continued to dominate through the remainder of the quarter, stretching the lead to 26 points at one point.
Charlotte's offense couldn't muster any clean shots and its defense looked confused, leaving multiple Heat players with great looks all over the court.
The game looked to be getting out of hand in a hurry with Miami on top by 20 heading into the fourth quarter.
While Miami continued to increase its lead, ESPN Stats & Info tweeted a very telling statistic regarding the Bobcats' struggles:
The Bobcats are 10-for-24 in the paint, including 7-of-19 in the restricted area, against the Heat today.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 27, 2014
Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer tweeted yet another dooming statistic for the Bobcats:
Same old same old: Bobcats have twice Miami's turnovers (12-6). Heat has scored 15 points off those turnovers.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) April 27, 2014
With the Heat holding a seemingly insurmountable lead midway through the fourth quarter, James was pulled from the game.
LeBron leaves after 33 minutes. Might be it. And doubt Heat hold a full-scale practice tomorrow.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 27, 2014
However, after Charlotte rallied to cut the deficit to 16 with just 4:40 remaining, James reentered the game to help close out the victory:
Oh, LeBron's back, up 16 with 4:40 left.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 27, 2014
James finished the contest with a game-high 30 points and added 10 rebounds, six assists and two steals. Wade recorded 17 points and six assists. Chris Anderson looked good in the paint, accumulating 12 points of his own.
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
During a press conference with the Associated Press, via ESPN.com, James spoke of the game succinctly:
"We were locked in on what needs to be done and our keys to win this game."
For Charlotte, Jefferson recorded a team-high 20 points and added five rebounds while both Josh McRoberts and Kemba Walker finished with 13 points. Chris Douglas-Roberts was a great threat off the bench, chipping in 17 points.
With the Heat now leading the series 3-0, this looks like the beginning of the end for the Bobcats.
#Bobcats fall 98-85 in a game that was not nearly as close as that margin might indicate. No team has ever won NBA series down 3-0— Mike Solarte (@MikeSolarte) April 27, 2014
Miami will face the Bobcats once again in Charlotte for Game 4 on Monday. After the drubbing the Heat handed the Bobcats on Saturday, playing on the road doesn't appear to be a hindrance for James and Co.
There's a strong possibility this series won't need a Game 5. If that's the case, Miami will get some much-needed rest as it awaits its Round 2 opponent.
After all, during a press conference with the Associated Press, via ESPN.com, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra simply said:
"You don't want a series to go longer than it needs to."