Miami sealed it with an 18-4 run in the fourth, all but three of those points coming with James getting a rest. Luke Ridnour made a high-arcing baseline jumper over Ray Allen with 10:29 left to get Charlotte within 74-69.
That’s when James got a breather. He returned to breathing room.
Chris Andersen had a tip-in for a 12-point lead, Wade — who shot 10 for 16 — made a 3-pointer as the shot clock was winding down with 6:50 left to make it 85-70, and another score by Andersen pushed the margin to 17.
With that, Game 1 was secure.
“That group that was in once I took that break at the 10-minute mark in the fourth quarter, they just bumped the lead,” James said. “Obviously, to have three Hall of Famers in the game when I’m out of the game, CB, D-Wade and Ray ... that was big-time.”
So was Jones.
He didn’t play in the first half of any playoff game last season and was out of the rotation much of this year. But when he checked in with 4:19 left in the half Sunday, Miami led 35-34.
“Hell of a spark,” Wade said.
Before long, it was 47-36, Jones scoring four of those late as Miami was wrapping up a 19-2 run. He added five more in the third, and his 3-pointer with 10:08 left kickstarted what became the game-deciding spurt down the stretch.
“When you’re dressed, you’re expected to perform,” Jones said.
Two years ago, it was Mike Miller giving a lift to the Heat in that off-the-bench role. Last year, it was Miller and Shane Battier sharing those honors. Miller is in Memphis now, Battier is out of the rotation, and that means a door may be opening for Jones.
“He’s going to be a very, very key ingredient to our success,” James said.