Reigning NBA champs Miami open playoffs with win
Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Bobcats drives against Dwyane Wade (R) and Chris Andersen of the Miami Heat during Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarter-finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs, at American Airlines Arena in Miami, on April 20, 2014 - by Mike Ehrmann
James on Sunday made four of the Heat's 11 three-pointers and finished with 27 points and nine rebounds as the Heat seized the advantage in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series.
Wade added 23 points and five assists for the Heat, who are trying to become the first club to win three straight NBA titles since the Los Angeles Lakers did it 2000, 2001 and 2002.
While the Heat are in familiar territory, the Washington Wizards were playing their first playoff game since 2008 on Sunday in Chicago -- where they came away with a 102-93 game-one win over the Bulls.
Washington's Brazilian big man Nene scored 24 points for the Wizards, who trailed much of the contest but out-played the Bulls down the stretch.
In Miami, the star-studded Heat endured some rough patches, perhaps not unexpected after they finished out the regular-season with three straight defeats and conceded the top seed in the East to the Indiana Pacers.
Part of the reason was coach Erik Spoelstra's decision to rest James and Chris Bosh for the last two games, and Wade missed time late in the season as well.
"It felt like we hadn't played in two weeks," James said. "For me, it was a week. It felt like we hadn't been out there for a long time. We didn't have any rhythm at the start."
Nevertheless, he and Wade connected on 18 of their 32 attempts from the field, and Wade was confident the Heat would improve when they host Wednesday's game two.
"Besides starting off slow in the first and third quarters," Wade said, "I thought we played a pretty good game.
"Now we're going to go look at adjustments we can make and figure out how we can be better in game two," he added.
The Bobcats opened the third quarter with 10 straight points and led with seven minutes left in the quarter.
James's buzzer-beating three-pointer to end the third sent the Heat into the final period with a 72-65 lead, and they pulled away from there.
James Jones contributed 12 points off the bench and fellow reserve Chris Andersen scored eight rebounds and pulled down 10 rebounds while also effectively guarding Charlotte's most potent offensive threat, Al Jefferson.
Jefferson started strong but was hobbled after suffering a strain to his left plantar fascia in the first quarter.
He still played more than 35 minutes, scoring 18 points and one rebound. Kemba Walker's 20-point effort led the Bobcats, who are in the playoffs for just the second time and have never won a post-season game.
Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said Jefferson exacerbated an existing injury, and needed a pain-killing injection.
"There's a lot of soreness," Clifford said. "He took a shot so he could play. It's going to be a problem."