The Hornets failed to come out with intensity in Game 1, effectively allowing the Heat to break out to a 19-point lead after the first quarter. While the Hornets outscored the Heat in two of the next three quarters, the Heat's first-quarter lead was simply insurmountable, and trading baskets with them proved to be a futile exercise. Miami finished the game with 123 points, one of the highest point totals by an opponent in several years.
Hornets head coach Steve Clifford acknowledged that the Hornets' defense, particularly in the pick and roll, lacked discipline, and said that that was a major reason the team came up short in Game 1. Our own Reinis Lacis covered the Hornets' defensive lapses in great detail. However, Clifford was adamant that no lineup or rotational changes were imminent, and stressed that he has faith in his team's ability to rebound from an embarrassing loss.
Kemba Walker was unusually quiet in Game 1, scoring just 19 points on 13 shots and dishing out only one assist. Don't let the point total fool you; Walker was a non-factor for most of the game. There were worries that he might be injured — he appeared to tweak his ankle in Game 1 — but both Walker and Clifford have reiterated that Walker is fine. If there's one thing we know about Kemba this season, it's that he doesn't follow up a poor game with another poor game. Look for him to be huge in tonight's game. He should be able to exploit Goran Dragic's defensive shortcomings with ease.
Don't expect Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside to combine for 52 points tonight, either. Whiteside's efficiency was the result of abysmal pick-and-roll defense, and Deng's offensive explosion was out of character. They're both terrific players, but don't expect a repeat performance tonight. Clifford and co. know what went wrong, and they're not going to let it happen again.
A matchup to keep an eye on tonight is Courtney Lee against Dwyane Wade. Lee's calling card is sound, safe defense and a reliable scoring punch when needed, and he's probably the closest thing the Hornets have had to a 3-and-D player since, well, ever. Wade didn't have a huge night against the Hornets on Sunday, but his 16 points and seven assists came within the flow of the offense, though on a couple of occasions he isolated against Jeremy Lin and made him look silly. Lee has tremendous pressure on him to lock Wade down, and as we're seen in the past, he doesn't back down from any challenge.
While a loss tonight wouldn't end the Hornets' post-season run, it would considerably hinder their chances of getting into the second round. To win a seven-game series, the Hornets will need at least one win in Miami. Let's hope that happens tonight.