This game was much harder than it needed to be. The Miami Heat went the final 3:45 of regulation scoreless, looking like a team that lacked the cohesion it had built over the last three years. And yet, the Heat dug deep in overtime against the Charlotte Bobcats to win 104-96, improving on their uneven record in January and improving to 29-11 on the season.
LeBron James settled for a long two that bounced off the rim at the fourth-quarter buzzer, but drove to the hole three times in the extra period. He scored two points on all of those trips -- twice getting layups and the other time making two free throws after getting fouled. James' aggressiveness and a sharper Heat defense helped give Miami a much-needed win.
James finished with 34 points on 13-of-25 shooting from the field and 8-of-10 shooting from the foul line, eight rebounds and six assists. And after allowing Charlotte to score 60 points in the first half, the Heat held the Bobcats to just 36 points in the following 29 minutes of basketball -- 24 for the second half, and five for overtime. In this sense, Miami mirrored what it did against the Brooklyn Nets last week. This time, though, the Heat came away victorious.
Miami was again shorthanded, as Dwyane Wade and Chris Andersen sat out with minor injuries. The Heat needed Chris Bosh to pick up the slack, and he did. Bosh finished with 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting and 3-of-6 shooting from downtown, one of which tied the game midway through the fourth quarter. It was somewhat perplexing that Miami didn't go to Bosh more often in the brutal final minutes of the fourth period. He was the only player who had his jumper tonight.
Unfortunately for the Heat, Ray Allen did not manage to snap out of his mysterious shooting slump. The great 3-point shooter shot just 1-for-5 from beyond the arc, but he did manage to contribute in other ways. Allen converted a couple layups to start off the game, grabbed a season-high nine rebounds and made a tough running jumper in the overtime period that saved a broken Heat possession.
With Wade out, Allen played 40 minutes. Andersen's absence led Erik Spoelstra to go to Udonis Haslem for 31 minutes, even including the Miami native next to Chris Bosh for crunch time. Although he was shaky with his jump-shot, Haslem grabbed 10 boards, blocked three shots and scored six points. (The Heat's block of the night, though, has to go to Mario Chalmers for a block of an Al Jefferson layup from behind.)
Spoelstra even went to Greg Oden for a few minutes, though this stint was more discouraging. Oden committed three fouls in five minutes of play and looked overmatched against Al Jefferson. He has a long way to go if he wants to defend Roy Hibbert well in a playoff series.
The Heat will visit Atlanta, a notable city during the U.S. civil rights movement, to play the Hawks at 5:30 on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.