For just about all of the 48 minutes, the Miami Heat searched for motivation, purpose, the very type of perseverance Al Jefferson was providing for the Charlotte Bobcats.

A 15-point lead early in the second period would be cut to six. A 16-point lead later in the quarter would be down to 10 at the intermission. In the third period, an 11-point lead was trimmed to four. Later, a 14-point lead almost entirely evaporated in the fourth.

So there, late in the fourth quarter, stood the Bobcats, Jefferson on a bum left foot, Kemba Walker off with his shot, Gary Neal having missed his first six attempts, and the Bobcats nonetheless within one.

What should have been easy, or at least easier, eventually turned into a 101-97 victory Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, more survival than triumph.

"We're going to have to do a better job of not giving up those double-digit leads," Heat center Chris Bosh said. "We'll take the win, but we know we have to play better."

The victory pushed the Heat to a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven NBA opening-round playoff series, with the next two at Time Warner Cable Arena, beginning Saturday at 7 p.m.

"There were segments and pockets of the game where there was a lapse of energy," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra understated. "And you have to credit Charlotte, they hung around."

Ultimately, 32 points from LeBron James and 20 from Bosh were enough on a night the Heat only got 15 from Dwyane Wade, who largely was out of rhythm and forcing shots after a solid opening game of the series, but did come up with a huge late steal.

Only in the final ticks were the Heat able to exhale.

"We can play better basketball. We haven't played our best basketball," James said. "They don't give up."

When it was over, Spoelstra took umbrage to the notion that the Heat should be steamrolling Charlotte.

"That's absurd," he said. "Not in the playoffs. It doesn't matter who you play. Once you get to this level, it gets highly competitive. And we expect a dogfight when we go up to Charlotte."

Spoelstra also stressed that as bad as it was at times for the Heat, there also were the stretches when they build those sizable leads.

"There are some pockets, long stretches of the game, that it was some of our best basketball," he said.

Showing as much fortitude as any player on the court, Jefferson closed with 18 points and 13 rebounds, retreating to the Bobcats locker room in the first quarter amid the issue with his left foot that left his gait largely at a hobble.