Even with a hobbled Al Jefferson, the Charlotte Bobcats had a chance to tie things up in game two of their first round series with the Miami Heat in the waning seconds. As a team new to the atmosphere of the NBA Playoffs and a team that has struggled in late-game situations, Charlotte’s final possession resulted in a turnover that eventually played into a 101-97 loss and the Cats taking a 2-0 deficit to their home court.
Jefferson was slowed and less efficient than he has been as he shot 9-23 from the floor, but still put up a solid 18 points and 13 rebounds. Kemba Walker struggled for much of the contest, but was knocking down big shots when it mattered. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist came up surprisingly huge as well, notching 22 points and 10 rebounds on 9-13 shooting.
And the Bobcats still lost.
Coming into this series, it was a widely accepted fact that Charlotte was outmatched against the defending champs. We knew this was a team that wasn’t going to roll over, but ultimately wouldn’t have enough firepower to hang with Miami in a series.
The question that we’re faced with now as the series heads to Charlotte for game three, though, is whether or not the Bobcats can actually win a game in this series. After all, they gave the Heat one of their best shots in game two on Wednesday and still fell short. That makes you wonder if they at all have what it takes to knock off the Heat on at least one night.
Having what figures to be an excited home crowd in Charlotte should play in their favor, but it’s going to take more than just that alone. Walker is going to have to play a full game at the level that he played the final minutes of the fourth quarter in game two, MKG is going to have to produce something offensively and it’d be great to have a Gary Neal or Chris Douglas-Roberts to have a big game off of the bench.
The biggest factor in the Bobcats pulling out at least one win and avoiding the sweep in this series, though, is whether or not Jefferson can overcome his foot injury and be the All-NBA caliber center that he was for most of the regular season. He has the size advantage to cause issues for the Heat and is obviously skilled, but that injury is limiting what he’s able to effectively do. Considering it likely won’t go away, you have to wonder if he’ll fully be able to take advantage of all of this.
Charlotte is one of the feel-good stories of this postseason and this is a terrific growing experience for a young and improving team. However, I’m not sure that they’re going to be able to avoid a sweep. With a healthy Jefferson, I’d guess they’d grab a game at home. With him hobbled, it seems like Miami should be able to advance with two wins on the Cats’ floor.