The Heat-Hornets series was supposed to be one of the most competitive in the NBA playoffs’ first round, and it still may be.
Sunday, though, it was far from it.
The Heat dismantled the Hornets for four quarters as Charlotte declined to help itself. Miami’s 123-91 opening-game victory gives the Heat the early lead in the series.
“They were really good and we were not anywhere where we needed to be,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said.
Miami’s 41-point first quarter tied the franchise record for its best postseason quarter, and the 123 points were the most ever given up by Charlotte’s pro basketball team in a postseason game.
Gastonia’s Hassan Whiteside dominated the paint for the Heat on both ends. Charlotte gave up 56 points in the paint.
Kemba Walker had 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting but only one assist. In fact, no Charlotte starter had more than one assist.
Game 2, and a chance at redemption for the Hornets, is 7 p.m. Wednesday in Miami.
Three who mattered
Nic Batum: One of the only Hornets players with a pulse on the offensive end, Batum finished with 24 points.
Luol Deng: The former Duke Blue Devil’s big first quarter (14 points) helped Miami get out to its large lead.
Hassan Whiteside: When he was in the paint, the Hornets dared not go there. Whiteside had a double-double by the end of the third quarter.
▪ To win this series, Charlotte can’t allow Deng to win his matchup against Marvin Williams the way he did. It’s imperative for the Hornets’ chances for Williams to at least tie Deng.
▪ As soon as Whiteside got his second foul, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra took him out. The Heat would rather match Amar’e Stoudemire against Al Jefferson’s post game.
▪ Frank Kaminsky looked very tight in his first playoff game. He had a poor start on both ends of the floor but specifically on the defensive side.
▪ And on that note, Sunday’s game won’t stop the critiques from last summer coming back. Rookie Justise Winslow, whom the Hornets passed on for Kaminsky, had eight points and four rebounds.
▪ Charlotte’s 28 first-half free-throw attempts were the most given up by the Heat in the franchise’s playoff history. The Hornets made 21 of them, and they finished with 37 free-throw attempts.
▪ Walker apparently injured his knee in the third quarter when he “felt something real quick.” He said after the game that doctors checked him out and that he’ll be “all right.”
▪ Miami Heat fans are notorious for arriving to games late. That stereotype was reinforced Sunday. Chunks of great, lower bowl seating were available at the tipoff.
▪ Whiteside, who’s from Gastonia, had a mini-documentary about his younger years play during a first-half timeout. He caught the final 30 or so seconds and smiled after.
They said it
“Whether you lose by 30 or one, it’s 1-0. So we lost one game.” – Clifford
“I wouldn’t see the point in changing our lineup right now. Not to be disrespectful, but I know our team.” – Clifford, when asked if he would consider starting Jefferson over Zeller
“That’s the last thing that we were thinking about. We really thought that was aberrational.” – Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on whether his team’s regular-season collapse in Boston played a factor in running away with Sunday’s game
C+ OFFENSE: Charlotte will have to create more offense, especially from behind the 3-point line. Six made 3s for these Hornets won’t be enough.
F DEFENSE: This series should be in the mid-90s. Instead, the Heat got to 100 quicker than any Charlotte opponent did all season.
C COACHING: Everyone has to take blame in a loss like this. The coaching staff had three days between games and turned out this product.