When the Hornets missed their chance in Game 6, the odds looked bad for Game 7. Charlotte would have to overcome their disappointment, go on the road, fight through key injuries, and play with energy despite a short one-day rest and a 1 p.m. matinee start. The worst-case scenario played out, with Miami dominating in a 106-73 win that closed the book on the season.
Kemba Walker nearly bailed out the Hornets on Friday, but looked exhausted and hounded by Miami’s defense on Sunday. In the first half, Walker tried just six shots. He did a solid job facilitating the offense, leading the team in assists with six, but few shots were falling for anyone — Charlotte shot just 32.1 percent from the floor, a season low.
Kemba would finish 3-of-16 for nine points, his first single-digit scoring game in the playoffs. He averaged 25 points in Games 1-6. Al Jefferson was second-best with 14.8.
Early on, the Hornets tried to exploit the height advantage Frank Kaminsky has over Luol Deng, hoping for a re-do of Kaminsky’s 15-point explosion in Game 3. It didn’t quite work: Frank led Charlotte with eight shot attempts in the first half, but only made two for five points. Shifting Marvin Williams to small forward also impacted the team’s rebounding — Al Jefferson and Kaminsky combined for just three rebounds in the first three quarters.
Charlotte’s defense was solid for large chunks of the first half, but that poor rebounding gave the Heat a 54-42 cushion that they’d never give up. They grabbed 58 boards to Charlotte’s 36, with a 10-3 edge on offensive boards. Courtney Lee’s 5-of-5 shooting for 11 points was one of the few things keeping the Hornets in the game.
Things didn’t look great in the first half, but the dam didn’t break until the third quarter. Miami blew the doors off, holding Charlotte to 20.8 percent shooting and winning the quarter, 29-11. Homecourt advantage was key: Charlotte attempted just four free throws in the first three quarters after leaning heavily on those points in their wins. Walker couldn’t recapture the magic he had in Game 6, shooting 2-of-7 for five points in the third quarter. No other Hornet scored more than two points.
That was pretty much game over for Charlotte, and ended their (overall pretty great!) season on a sour note. With Nic Batum, Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lin, Marvin Williams and Courtney Lee all entering free agency, it’s shaping up to be a turbulent offseason. Stay tuned.