Shaquille O’Neal took it all on his shoulders.
“This one is my fault tonight,” he said after the Bobcats beat Miami 94-92 on Saturday night.
“I’ve got to get the guys more ready. We took them too lightly, and I take the blame. As the leader of the team, it’s my job to get the guys fired up. It won’t ever happen again.”
Too bad the blame didn’t really fall on O’Neal.
“He had 26 points and 16 rebounds,” Charlotte’s Emeka Okafor said of O’Neal. “I don’t know what else he could have done. How much energy can he possibly bring?”
The reality is this one wasn’t O’Neal’s fault. The Heat were flat from the start and had to play catch-up the entire game.
Then, with a chance to tie it at the end of regulation, Dwayne Wade foolishly attempted a 3-pointer from the corner instead of looking for an easier shot.
His miss had the Bobcats celebrating all over the court, while the Heat filed off the floor in shock as Eddie Jones was in Wade’s face lecturing him that the final shot did not have to be a 3.
“He simply did not know the score,” Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said of Wade. “He was the only guy who did not know the score.”
Wade, who had 35 points in Miami’s 125-115 victory over Phoenix on Friday night, finished with 19 against Charlotte then struggled to explain his final shot.
“Stuff just happened so fast I can’t even tell you what I was thinking,” Wade said. “When I got the ball, I looked up and was thinking 3, but at the same time it doesn’t matter.
“We had an opportunity to win the game. I hit it and I’m the hero, but I missed it and I’m not.”
Primoz Brezec had a career-high 27 points and 11 rebounds to lead Charlotte, which had to sweat this one out despite leading most of the game.
The Bobcats went almost 3 minutes without a basket and watched the Heat pull to 90-87 during that span. Then Brezec broke the drought with his biggest basket of the game, an off-balance, 18-foot jumper that gave the Bobcats a 92-87 lead with 57 seconds to play.
“I was just trying to win the game,” Brezec said. “We’ve lost so many games in the final seconds. We had to get this one, we led most of the way. I am glad we were able to finish it out.”
With Charlotte clinging to a 94-91 lead, Hart fouled Wade, who went to the line and made his first free throw with 4 seconds to play. He missed the second and got his own rebound, then tried the 3-pointer.
“I felt it was in,” Knight said of Wade’s shot. “I was ready to put my head down and say we lost another one. But we finally got a break.”
Despite having just 15 wins in their first season, the Bobcats have made a habit of beating some of the better teams in the league at home. Aside from wins over Minnesota, Houston and Denver, Charlotte also has victories over defending NBA champion Detroit and now the Heat.
This one may have been a question of good timing for Charlotte, which has now won three of its last four games. The Heat were coming in off that emotional victory over Phoenix.
The game against the Suns was for the best overall record in the NBA, and Van Gundy admitted before the Charlotte game that he was worried about a Heat letdown.
He backed off that after the game.
“The back-to-back thing in this league is nothing but an excuse,” Van Gundy said. “We simply got outplayed.”
The Bobcats sold out the game for the third time this season. … Even with a chance to win an NBA title now that he plays for the Heat, Steve Smith said before the game he enjoyed his time with the expansion Bobcats. “I was happy in Charlotte,” said Smith, who was traded to Miami on Feb. 24. “Both situations are great for me.” … Told Big East school West Virginia had just been eliminated from the NCAA tournament, Okafor let out a shout of disappointment right before the game began. … The crowd gave a boisterous ovation to Mourning, a former Charlotte Hornets, when he checked into the game.