Bobcats burned by Heat, drop 16th in a row

The defending NBA champions entered the Queen City on Wednesday, and walked out with their win streak intact.

Despite the best efforts from a hobbled Charlotte squad, the Miami Heat pulled away late on their way to a 105-92 victory against the Bobcats in a match up of teams in the NBA's Southeast Division.

The win was Miami's sixth straight, while the long losing streak for Charlotte reaches 16 games, as they search for an elusive eighth win.

"In order to guarantee yourself a chance to win in this league, you've got to play hard," said Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap. "I thought we were better tonight than we have been in (execution of the pass and defense). I'm just trying to hold that down until the young guys figure some things out."

The Bobcats (7-21) battled despite playing with a depleted roster due to injuries.

Out on Wednesday were three key contributors for Charlotte in guard Ben Gordon (right knee) and forwards Byron Mullens (left ankle) and Tyrus Thomas (left calf).

All three players were injured on the team's recent four-game road trip.

Coming off of an emotional victory on Christmas Day in an NBA Finals rematch against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Heat were also without a key player.

Guard Ray Allen sat out Wednesday's contest with a sore shoulder.

"It was a tough back to back for us, but we are professionals," said Heat guard Dwayne Wade, who scored 29 points and grabbed nine rebounds on Wednesday. "We have to do our job. Our job is to come out here tonight, give it all we had and try to get a win, especially with a man down without Ray (Allen). I think guys stepped up. Our bench was key."

Miami (20-6) got off to a hot start offensively. Five of the Heat's first seven makes were dunks, including four from LeBron James.

The Heat also dominated the paint early, outscoring the Bobcats 32-18 down low in the first half.

Trailing 55-38 at halftime, Charlotte exploded in the third quarter to turn what could have been a blowout loss into a competitive game.

The Bobcats outscored the Heat 33-23 in the third quarter, including eight points each in the stanza from team co-captain Kemba Walker and contributor-turned-starter Hakim Warrick.

Dunlap was pleased with the performance Wednesday from Warrick, who scored a season-high 18 points and added nine rebounds.

"That will help us because at that (power forward) spot, we need scoring and we need rebounding," Dunlap said. "(Warrick) did the two things we asked him to do."

Miami also helped Charlotte's cause, struggling offensively. After their 32-point output in the paint in the first half, the Heat scored only eight low post points in the second half.

The Bobcats got as close as 84-82 with 7:16 left in the game, but the Heat pulled away with a combination of bench play and their starters.

"It was a tough game tonight," said Heat forward Shane Battier. "The crowd go into it in the third quarter. We were a little lackadaisical with the basketball there. It is always tough come off of an emotional game with a back-to-back. We responded when it mattered. It was a good win."

Wade and James led the late charge, finishing the game with a combined 56 points for Miami.

Recording a near triple-double on Wednesday, James scored 27 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out eight assists.

James said his team did what it had to in order to come away with a victory that was too close for comfort.

"We aren't a team that is trying to win two quarters or three quarters," James said. "We know it takes 48 minutes to win a basketball game. We aren't going to short cut anything. Teams are going to make runs. We have to be able to withstand those runs, make plays offensively and make enough plays defensively to come away with it."

Walker paced Charlotte with 27 points, six rebounds and six assists, while Ramon Sessions added 19 points off of the bench.

The Bobcats try to break their burdening losing streak on Friday at the Brooklyn Nets (14-14).

Charlotte returns home Saturday against the New Orleans Hornets — a team that ended an 11-game defeat streak of its own Wednesday with a 97-94 victory against the Orlando Magic.

Dunlap has confidence that his team will weather its long storm of a losing streak.

"I know that we'll come through this," he said. "We just have to continue to teach, stay with them and point out the things we are doing really well."