So much for that Charlotte Hornets winning streak.
After cruising to double-digit wins in each of their last two games, the Hornets appeared to be on their way to a third straight victory against the Miami Heat Saturday in Spectrum Center. The team turned a one-time 12-point deficit into a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, with the offense firing on all cylinders.
And then, chaos.
With less than a minute left and the Heat down by three, Nic Batum coughed up the ball and the Heat’s James Johnson sunk a 3-pointer to tie the game. Then Kemba Walker’s last-ditch attempt fell flat, and Miami caught the rebound with about six seconds to play.
Rather than pass it out, Kelly Olynyk dribbled down the court, seemingly lost the ball, and sent the game to overtime ... only for Dwight Howard to be called for a foul with .2 seconds left. Olynyk missed his first free throw, made the second, and Miami snuck out of Charlotte with a 106-105 victory.
Three who mattered
Walker: Trade rumors didn’t seem to bother Walker on-the-court. He finished with 22 despite dismal shooting from behind the arc.
Olynyk: His 3-pointers in the fourth quarter kept the Heat involved until the end, and his free throw with .2 seconds left in the game gave Miami the win.
Nic Batum: He exploded in the third quarter, scoring 14 of his eventual 26 while also opening up what had become a stagnant Hornets offense.
▪ Turnover differential can be fickle, but the Hornets were clearly cautious with the ball (and somewhat lucky at times) against Miami. The Hornets only coughed up the ball eight times, but instead forced Miami into 14 giveaways.
▪ Maybe the worst game of the season for forward Marvin Williams, who finished with zero points and missed all five of his shots. He also only had two rebounds, and Frank Kaminsky performed far better off the bench.
▪ In two games with Hornets coach Steve Clifford back in charge of the team, the Hornets scored 133 and 118 points. That offensive firepower kept up against the Heat. Even while shooting an unimpressive 45.6 percent from the floor, the Hornets managed to put up 105 points.
▪ As for the Hornets’ defense since Clifford returned? There hasn’t been much of it. Both of the Hornets’ last two opponents shot 48.8 percent from the floor, and the Heat were even better (49.4 percent). Defense is Clifford’s calling card, so expect the team to straighten that out before Monday’s game against the Kings.
▪ Justice Winslow, the former Duke star who has missed several games this season due to injuries, was active against the Hornets as the first ballhandler off the bench for Miami. He only scored three points though, and struggled to keep up with Walker on defense.
▪ This was the first game Whiteside, a Gastonia native, has played against Charlotte this season (after missing the first two contests due to injury).
▪ Walker’s pregame introduction brought louder cheers than perhaps at any game so far this season – interesting considering the trade rumors circling him ahead of the Feb. 8 trade deadline.
▪ Clifford gave some serious props to Heat rookie Bam Adebayo pregame for helping fill the void while Whiteside was out, and he delivered during the game. Adebayo finished with six points, including one nice steal and dunk against Dwight Howard right before halftime.
They said it
“They made the plays. We didn’t.” – Kaminsky, on the way the game ended.
“We got them down the stretch.” – Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
“I’m not shocked, I’m frustrated. Obviously. I’m just upset we lost.– Walker.
A- OFFENSE: Ever since Clifford returned, there’s just been a certain offensive flow to this team that it didn’t have before. The 3-point shot wasn’t falling tonight for anyone, but 105 points should have been enough to win.
C DEFENSE: Letting the Heat shoot that high a percentage is difficult to overcome, but a critical turnover and game-deciding foul with less than a minute left is near impossible to get past.
B- COACHING: An 11-2 Miami run to finish the first half could have sunk the Hornets, but Clifford rallied his team in the second half and slowly chipped away at Miami’s lead. Unfortunately they weren’t able to close out the tight game.
Heat 106, Hornets 105
MIAMI (106)—Richardson 7-20 2-2 17, J.Johnson 9-12 3-4 22, Whiteside 5-10 0-0 10, Ellington 10-15 0-2 26, Jones Jr. 1-2 1-2 3, Winslow 1-4 0-0 3, Adebayo 3-4 0-0 6, Olynyk 6-17 1-2 16, Walton Jr. 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 43-87 7-12 106.
CHARLOTTE (105)—Kidd-Gilchrist 6-10 2-2 14, Williams 0-5 0-0 0, Howard 6-8 2-5 14, Walker 10-25 1-2 22, Batum 8-12 9-10 26, Kaminsky 4-8 2-2 12, O’Bryant III 2-4 0-0 5, Carter-Williams 0-2 0-0 0, Graham 1-3 0-0 3, Lamb 4-13 0-0 9. Totals 41-90 16-21 105.
3-Point Goals—Miami 13-28 (Ellington 6-10, Olynyk 3-8, Winslow 1-1, J.Johnson 1-2, Richardson 1-3, Walton Jr. 1-3, Jones Jr. 0-1), Charlotte 7-27 (Kaminsky 2-5, Graham 1-1, Batum 1-2, O’Bryant III 1-2, Lamb 1-4, Walker 1-8, Carter-Williams 0-1, Williams 0-4). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Miami 47 (Whiteside 14), Charlotte 43 (Howard 15). Assists—Miami 28 (J.Johnson 7), Charlotte 22 (Walker 7). Total Fouls—Miami 17, Charlotte 12. A—18,687 (19,077).