Over the final minute, the Bobcats were just about perfect -- and made some history in the process.
Jason Richardson scored 29 points and the Bobcats forced two crucial turnovers in the final 37 seconds on the way to beating the Heat 90-88 on Sunday night. For the first time in the franchise's four-year history, the Bobcats are two games over .500.
OK, so it's only 2-0.
To Charlotte, that's worth savoring.
"It feels great," said Gerald Wallace, who scored 13 for Charlotte. "A lot of times we've been in big games and we've had the lead and around the fourth quarter they tie the game up, we'd get confused or the team wouldn't know what to do."
Udonis Haslem scored 18 points and had 10 rebounds for Miami. Shaquille O'Neal scored 17 points for the Heat (0-3), avoiding what would have been the first occurrence of three consecutive single-digit scoring efforts in his career.
That had to be little consolation.
"We're close," O'Neal said. "We're still making a lot of silly mistakes, but once we overcome that and learn to play better with each other, we'll be all right. ... But we're close. I wish we wouldn't experiment in these games, but right now, we're shooting ourselves in the foot. So we just have to do a little bit better."
"Our inexperience showed a little bit," Charlotte coach Sam Vincent said.
The Heat trailed 81-65 with 10:52 left after Ryan Hollins' three-point play, one that had more than a couple Bobcats celebrating both on the court and along the sideline in front of their bench.
But Miami came roaring back.
Felton made two free throws with 50.9 seconds left and could have given the Bobcats a four-point lead with 16 seconds left, but his layup was blocked by O'Neal. Miami called time-out with 10 seconds left, but Davis threw a wayward pass to O'Neal for a turnover with 2.2 seconds remaining.
"Ricky made the right play," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "He just fired it 9,000 miles an hour."
Charlotte sealed it with a pair of free throws from Jeff McInnis, and Haslem hit a meaningless jumper at the buzzer. Okafor finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds for Charlotte. Davis scored 12 and Wright finished with 11 for Miami.
"Sometimes you have to go through those growing pains," Richardson said. "We figured it out and we won a game tonight."
It's the first time O'Neal has been part of three straight season-opening losses, and with a trip coming up Wednesday to San Antonio -- where Miami is 1-19 all-time -- followed by a home game Friday with Phoenix, things won't get easier anytime soon.
Help is on the way.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade, the 2006 finals MVP, will take part in his first full-contact practice of the season Monday. Wade said he hasn't decided when he'll officially return from offseason knee and shoulder surgeries.
At this rate, he might want to expedite that process.
"We're not going to get down about it," Riley said. "We're 0-3. There's no doubt about that. We play San Antonio and Phoenix coming up, so the schedule gets tougher. But we'll go back to work tomorrow."
Even with more than a few seats empty -- that New England vs. Indianapolis game surely had something to do with the turnout -- it was Miami's 100th straight regular-season sellout, four shy of matching the franchise record. ... Heat forward Penny Hardaway's runner in the lane with 3:07 left in the half was his first NBA regular-season basket since Dec. 7, 2005. ... The Bobcats won their third straight against Miami. ... Wallace was shaken up after missing a dunk in the second quarter, clutching his right knee as he fell awkwardly, but returned later in the period.
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