The Heat and the Hornets have some history as both faced off in a seven-game first round series last year. Tonight’s game very much had that same physical playoff feel that even included a scuffle between Marvin and Josh Richardson. There was jawing, complaining, and momentum swings on both ends.
The game started off slow as offense was hard to come by from both playoff-searching teams. Miami’s defense frustrated the Hornets and their ability to get to the rim. It wasn’t until the tail end of the second quarter, when Kemba returned, that we saw this game pick up. The energy was more visible and you could tell that we were in for an exciting second half. An intriguing second half it was as Kemba and Kidd-Gilchrist led Charlotte in the third quarter, outscoring the home team, 32-27. The final period was a much different story as the Heat turned the tables behind the theatrical Dion Waiters — nailing 3 three-pointers late from almost the exact same spot. The Hornets relied too much on Kemba and the lack of a true number “two” came back to bite them again. Hornets lose 108-101 after scoring only 15 points in the fourth quarter.
Miami’s defense has been very good this year, especially as of late. They defend the three ball and the rim at a very high level making it difficult to attack. With high pressure from the guards on the perimeter, they force you into the paint. This plays right into their hands as they have Whiteside and Reed sitting there at the rim. This is a big reason as to why the Heat allow the second most attempts from the 10-14 foot range. If the Hornets wanted to win this game, they had to see some success from this area of the court. The only Hornet that has demonstrated an ability from the range is Lamb. Jeremy did finish with 8 points on 4-7 shooting for the night.
There were lulls in the offense and most of it occurred when Kemba was resting on the bench. When he came back on, he was carrying the load. Kemba finished with 33 points on 46% shooting, as well as knocking in 5 threes. Without Kemba, this game wouldn’t have been close. Charlotte is now 4-8 when Walker scores 30 or more points.
The halfcourt defense wasn’t as bad as the final score suggests but there were still areas of concern. One, was getting back in transition. There was a point midway through the second quarter, in which the Heat picked up the pace and went on a 11-0 run aided by missed shots and turnovers. Miami scored 12 fast break points. Miami also recorded 13 offensive rebounds, a couple of crucial ones late, leading to 16 second chance points. That will get you beat on most nights.
Then there was Dion Waiters. Waiters was great tonight, especially in the fourth quarter. He saw the likes of Kidd-Gilchrist, Batum, and Kemba Walker all take a stab at guarding him at some point in this game. Kidd-Gilchrist gave Waiters problem at the rim, altering a lot of his shots. But, he was unable to fully keep up with him on the perimeter. Batum, played as we’d expect on defense —upright and reliant on his length to compensate for his lack of effort. Waiters finished with 24 points, shooting 50% from both downtown and overall.