CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When Dwyane Wade was told he was going to take the winning shot against the Charlotte Bobcats, he nearly deferred to the hotter LeBron James.
Then Wade thought better of it.
"When (coach Erik Spoelstra) called it, I was shocked because this guy had it going on," Wade said, pointing to James. "I wasn't in the flow. I was about to say, 'Let LeBron run it.' Then I said, 'You know what, I'll do it.'"
And he did.
With James in the corner, Wade brought the ball up, drove to the left side and banked a 10-footer over Gerald Henderson with 2.9 seconds remaining Wednesday night to lift the Heat to a 96-95 victory over the pesky Bobcats to remain unbeaten at 3-0.
After Wade's shot gently fell through the net, he turned to Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton seated courtside and imitated Newton's popular Superman touchdown celebration by pretending to rip open his shirt.
"It's a great homage to him," Wade said. "He was laughing. He was cracking up. But it was great respect to him. I wasn't trying to show nobody up. It's about how much respect we have for the athletes."
The Bobcats had a chance to steal one at the buzzer, but D.J. Augustin's 3-point attempt off a side inbounds play didn't fall and D.J. White's follow at the buzzer rolled off the rim as time expired.
Wade, who missed almost the entire third quarter with a bruised foot, only had 10 points on 5 of 13 shooting.
James led all scorers with 35 points, while Chris Bosh added 25. They combined for 35 second-half points to overcome a 60-45 halftime deficit.
Henderson led the Bobcats with 21 points, including a 3-pointer with 12 seconds remaining to give the Bobcats the lead at 95-94. Augustin finished with 20 points, while center Boris Diaw turned in another terrific game with 16 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists.
James said he wasn't upset Wade got the last shot.
"I guess that's why they give him the big bucks," laughed James.
"Hey, they deserved to take my money today," Wade said. "But I earned my money toward the end."
Said James: "D-Wade said he finally earned it. He didn't play well tonight but, hey, nobody cares about what else you do after you hit a game-winner like that. That was a big shot by him."
But it was James who brought the Heat back, taking his team on his shoulders in the third quarter.
"I feel good and this is the best I've felt in a while," James said. "I'm back to having fun playing the game and doing what I do best and that's attacking and getting to the free throw line."
James was 9 for 9 from the foul line.
The Heat needed to dig deep after a sluggish first half in front of a crowd of 19,614 fans, the largest ever to see a Bobcats game at Time Warner Cable Arena.
They had plenty of help from the Bobcats, who turned the ball over 12 times on 25 third-quarter possessions.
"In the third quarter, we turned it over too many times," Bobcats coach Paul Silas said. "It got them back in the game. Once they got back in the game, we played tough. They're just too good."
Said Diaw: "I think they adjusted to what we did in the first half and made a conscious effort to be in the line of passes and really focusing on stealing the ball in the second half."
Still, it was an encouraging game for the young Bobcats, who are clearly in a rebuilding mode.
They seemed to feed off the crowd early on and certainly weren't intimidated by the Eastern Conference champions jumping out to an 11-0 lead. They led by as many as 16 points in the first half against a Heat team that hadn't trailed for more than 14 seconds in their first two games.
"I think we surprised by playing so aggressive," Diaw said. "And shots were falling and we were really committed defensively."
The Bobcats got plenty of open looks in the first half, using a pick-and-pop to free up center Diaw for 3-pointers from the top of the key. Augustin was fearless in the first half, showing no signs of a sprained ankle from Monday night by hitting on 3 of 4 3-pointers in the first half for 16 points as the Bobcats took a 60-45 lead into the locker room.
"In order for us to be successful, we're going to have to defense better than that," James said.
Even without an established big man, the Bobcats outrebounded the Heat 53-30.
The Heat looked out of sync and frustrated early on.
James got pickpocketed by Derrick Brown in the halfcourt set and later threw up an air ball — one of two in the game — on a turnaround jumper after posting up low against Corey Maggette.
The other two-thirds of Miami's Big Three also struggled, with Bosh getting rejected in the paint by rookie Bismack Biyombo and Wade hitting just 2 of 8 from the field.