MIAMI — Maybe it was a Super Bowl hangover. After all, the Heat did alter their flight plan to remain in Toronto to watch the big game Sunday night and did not arrive in Miami until the wee hours of Monday morning.
Fortunately for the Heat, they avoided what would have been a highly embarrassing loss, beating the Charlotte Bobcats 99-94 on Monday night.
Heat forward LeBron James had 31 points, eight rebounds and eight assists to hold off the Bobcats. He made 13 of 14 shots from the field — a career-best 93 percent — and got to the rim repeatedly. James’ only miss was on a third-quarter layup.
“He was making it look easy,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said of James, who had 30-plus points on back-to-back days for the first time this season. “They couldn’t do anything about it. They had to come double him.”
Bosh had 23 points, and Heat guard Dwyane Wade added 20 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. It was also a season high rebound total for Wade.
“Ðwyane probably had four or five over-the-top rebounds, even over their bigs,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “There are only a few two-guards who can do that in this league. It is also a sign that he is getting healthier.”
But it almost wasn’t enough, even though the reigning NBA champion Heat entered with the best record in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the Bobcats were tied with the Wizards for the worst record in the NBA, which is ironic because the Heat also played poorly against Washington this season, losing in December.
Yet with 8:51 left, the Bobcats led 72-69. The Heat then put together a 14-2 run that included five layups or dunks. The Bobcats answered with an 8-4 run to keep it close before the Heat pulled away.
“We did a lot more good things that bad tonight,” Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said. “I liked our physical effort. It was extremely good for four quarters.”
Ramon Sessions led six Bobcats scorers in double figures with 18 points. Three of the double-figure scorers came off the bench: Sessions, Ben Gordon (16) and center Byron Mullens (12), who returned to the lineup after missing 19 games with an ankle injury.
“He helped us on the defensive boards,” Dunlap said of Mullens, who had nine rebounds in 28 minutes. “He gives us the flexibility to do some different things strategically.
“I also think our young players have improved since he went out. I think we are a better team now than we were six weeks ago.”
The Heat, meanwhile, have been fairly consistent, especially at home, where they are 19-3, including nine wins in their past 10 games.
Monday’s game will go in the win column, of course, but it wasn’t pretty.
“I’m just glad we were able to overcome it and get a win,” Bosh said. “We had a tough opponent, a long flight … We’re trying to get back situated to home. It’s not easy. But that’s part of the NBA everybody has to go through, and there are no excuses.”
NOTES: Mullens said he is not yet 100 percent. “I’m still kind of scared to jump off a bit,” he said. “There’s still some tightness there when I jump.” … After a 2-2 road trip that included losses to Boston and Indiana, this was the first of a five-game Heat homestand that includes Houston, the Clippers, the Lakers and Portland. … The Bobcats are without forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who suffered a concussion Saturday against Houston. … Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said reserve guard Ray Allen is a mature player who doesn’t press even though he is not getting as many shooting opportunities as he has in the past. “The thing about a Hall of Famer like Ray is that he has a short memory,” Spoelstra said. “He won’t hesitate to shoot if he is open.” … Point guard Kemba Walker is one of the few bright spots for the Bobcats, leading the team in scoring, assists and steals. … Charlotte’s biggest surprise is Jeff Adrien, who was undrafted out of Connecticut and cut by the team in the preseason. He is the Bobcats’ starter at power forward, playing ahead of Tyrus Thomas and Hakeem Warrick, whose combined salaries are $12 million per year.