Each of the last two Miami championship runs has been highlighted by moments where a sharpshooter enters a game and immediately provides a surprise spark.
James Jones got his turn Sunday.
And the lift he brought, combined with the expected playoff showings from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, have the Heat off and running in these playoffs.
James scored 27 points, Wade added 23 and the Heat rode two big runs — one late in the first half, the other down the stretch — to beat the Charlotte Bobcats 99-88 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series. Miami trailed for much of the first half, but rallied and has now topped Charlotte 17 straight times.
“We were flat to start,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I think our guys were just anxious.”
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Wednesday. Al Jefferson will be getting plenty of treatment until then.
Kemba Walker scored 20 points for the Bobcats, who started fast behind Jefferson — who was diagnosed with a strained left plantar fascia after a misstep in the first quarter, and got a pair of injections just to continue playing.
“We did some really good things today,” Walker said. “We just have to keep executing throughout the game. We can’t get rattled.”
Jefferson still finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds — yet in what can’t be a real exciting sign for Charlotte, he left the arena in a walking boot.
“Just got to suck it up, man,” said Jefferson, who confessed that he’s no fan of needles but insisted he doesn’t plan on sitting out.
Gary Neal scored 17 and Josh McRoberts added 15 for Charlotte, which shot only 12 free throws compared to 26 by Miami, and allowed the Heat to turn their 15 turnovers into 20 points.
“If we’re going to have 15 turnovers, we’re not going to win,” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said.
Miami sealed it with an 18-4 run in the fourth, all but three of those points coming with James getting a rest. Luke Ridnour made a high-arcing baseline jumper over Ray Allen with 10:29 left to get Charlotte within 74-69.
That’s when James got a breather. He returned to breathing room.
Chris Andersen had a tip-in for a 12-point lead, Wade — who shot 10 for 16 — made a 3-pointer as the shot clock was winding down with 6:50 left to make it 85-70, and another score by Andersen pushed the margin to 17.
With that, Game 1 was secure.
Duncan scores 27 points, Spurs beat Mavs 90-85
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The Spurs rode the wide shoulders of Tim Duncan to victory.
The Mavericks were not going to let San Antonio beat them with 3-pointers, and they did not want Tony Parker using the lane as his personal playground. So the veteran Duncan overcame a brief injury scare to score 27 points. The Spurs held Dallas to one field goal in the final seven minutes to rally for a 90-85 win Sunday in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
The Mavericks also went scoreless for 5 1/2 minutes during that stretch, their lone field goal coming with less than a second remaining.
San Antonio won despite going 3 for 17 on 3-pointers and getting only 23 points from its normally potent bench.
“We got killed on 3s in the first four outings this year,” Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki said. “It was no secret; we stayed home a little more on 3-point shooters, but you’ve got to give them something, and Duncan in there is obviously still solid.”
Duncan scored nine points on 4-for-5 shooting from the paint in the final quarter to help the Spurs overcome a 10-point deficit.
“Timmy, he’s not going to score 24 a game or anything like that,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s the base from which everything else occurs, whether he’s scoring or not. It just gives us a comfort level and a point from which to operate. He plays (defense), rebounds, scores here and there. He just does his job.”
Parker had 21 points, and Manu Ginobili added 17. Kawhi Leonard had 11 points and 10 rebounds and Tiago Splitter pulled down 11 rebounds for top-seeded San Antonio, which has won 10 straight against Dallas.
Devin Harris scored 19 points for the Mavericks, who nearly pulled off a huge upset.