Hornets forward Nic Batum knew after Game 3 it would be a long-shot for him to be ready two days later for Game 4.
He was right.
Batum, who sprained his left ankle late in Game 2, was ruled out for Monday’s game in the afternoon before the Hornets won 89-85 and tied the series at two games apiece.
“He wanted to go out there and shoot,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said before the game. “He was just walking out and he was, even with all the treatment he’s done for two days here, his ankle’s still really, really weak. He’s definitely not playing tonight. We’ll see how he feels [Tuesday] and hopefully [he is ready to go] for Wednesday.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
Batum couldn’t even fit a sneaker onto his swollen foot until Sunday. He had been getting treatment for up to five hours a day by the Hornets’ training staff.
Even a return for Game 5 may be optimistic for Batum, who sprained the same ankle in the penultimate game of the regular season.
He was averaging 16.5 points per game in the two postseason games.
Winslow’s lows: Heat rookie Justise Winslow continued his cold shooting that started once he got to Charlotte.
Winslow, whom all Hornets fans will remember as the player Charlotte passed on to get Frank Kaminsky, was 8-of-16 in the series’ first two games in Miami.
But Winslow is 4-for-15 since the contests moved north to Charlotte. He followed up his 1-for-7 shooting performance in Game 3 with another poor showing Monday.
Winslow totaled eight points on 3-of-8 shooting coming off the bench after missing his first five attempts.
It got to the point in the third quarter where the Hornets were content with letting him shoot open 3-pointers in the corner.
Get back: Charlotte did its best job of the series on limited fast-break opportunities by the Heat.
Miami had zero fast-break points in Game 4 on three attempts.
That bested the Hornets’ playoff mark from Game 1 where they allowed six fast-break points in a game where Miami could hit from seemingly anywhere.
Foul unhappy: In the past three games, Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside has been called for 14 fouls, and he’s not happy about it.
Whiteside said after the game that he didn’t even want to broach the topic of officiating, but he made clear his feelings on going up against Hornets big man Cody Zeller.
“I just got to do a better job of just looking out for Cody flopping,” Whiteside said. “Guy’s flopping, and I just got to do a better job on that and not get offensive fouls.”
Whiteside was asked to further clarify his statement.
“Just don’t get too physical with him, because he’s going to fall over,” said Whiteside, who finished third in NBA defensive player of the year voting. “I don’t know if that’s something they teach him – to flop. But just don’t get too physical with him, because he’s going to fall over.”
Whiteside delivered his comments in the Heat locker room after Zeller had already spoken in the Hornets’ locker room, and Zeller couldn’t be found for comment afterward.
Celeb sightings: Several local sports stars were in attendance Monday night.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera, running back Jonathan Stewart, linebacker Luke Kuechly, receiver Devin Funchess and linebacker Thomas Davis were all seated near the court. North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams sat on the second row.
Strange but true: Heat forward Luol Deng has taken the first shot in each of the four playoff games in this series.
Miami has won all four tips thanks for Hassan Whiteside, and the ball has ultimately found Deng for the first shot.
Deng is 3-for-4 with nine points on the first shot of each game. He made 3-pointers in Games 1, 2 and 4 but missed a jumper in Game 3.
Protecting home court: Charlotte’s playoff hopes were as bad as they could have been after Game 2, but there was hope in returning to the Hive.
With consecutive home playoff wins, the Hornets improved their home record (both regular season and postseason) to 32-11. Their 30 regular-season home wins were the sixth-most in the league this season.
The win guarantees the series will get one final game at Time Warner Cable Arena on Friday in Game 6. Charlotte hasn’t lost a home game since March 19 and are 15-2 since Feb. 8.