The Charlotte Hornets find themselves down 2-0 after losing to the Miami Heat 115-103. Tied at 29-29 after the first quarter, the Heat out scored the Hornets 86 to 64 the rest of the game, shooting 57.9 percent from the field. Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 29 points, while Al Jefferson finished with 25. Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 28 points, while Hassan Whiteside finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds.
Things got ugly in the 2nd quarter when Miami began hitting almost every shot. Charlotte's defense was solid in the 1st quarter, but unraveled in the 2nd, and Miami capitalized, shooting 74.4 percent as a team in the 1st half (that is not a typo). For a team that ranked as one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the regular season, Miami shot 9-16 (56.2 percent) tonight. While uncharacteristic, they used it to their advantage, attacking the rim consistently as Charlotte was forced to stretch their defense further out.
Before Miami took control in the 2nd quarter, the game was fairly even, thanks largely to Jefferson's dominance in the post. With Whiteside in foul trouble, Jefferson found his old All-NBA self, making his first seven shots. Jefferson's dominance may have been fools gold however, as Miami never doubled down on him, instead continuing their focus on defending the 3-point line. And defend they did, as Charlotte shot just 1-16 from the 3-point line.
Jefferson's post-game may have kept Charlotte in the game, but it went against their offensive identity. Charlotte is a 3-point shooting first team, and tonight, Miami took it away from them, intent on forcing Charlotte to score inside the arc. The great ball movement we saw all season? Gone. The open looks from the corner? Gone. The Hornets didn't play to their strengths offensively, and it's a significant reason why they find themselves down 2-0 in the series. Credit has to go to Miami for executing their game plan, but the likes of Marvin Williams, who went 0-10 tonight, and Frank Kaminsky, who has yet to even attempt a 3-pointer, and has attempted only one shot total this series, are playing right into Miami's hands. With both struggling, Clifford went to Spencer Hawes, who did manage five points in seven minutes, though he did not attempt a 3-pointer. Still, expect more Hawes in Game 3 if Williams and Kaminsky continue to struggle.
Defensively, the Hornets had difficulty defending Wade, who exploited every one-on-one matchup. While Whiteside was somewhat contained due to foul trouble, he still managed 17 points on 8-8 shooting. Charlotte struggled to consistently get stops, and looked demoralized at halftime after Miami's prolific scoring in the 1st half.
And to add to it, Batum left tonight with a sprained left ankle, the same one he injured against Boston earlier this month. He'll likely miss Saturday's game, which will leave the Hornets without their best playmaker. Even with homecourt, it's not going to get easier.
The series does not look good for the Hornets, but an optimist would say that Miami won't continue to shoot as well as they have. That said, Charlotte hasn't been good enough offensively to even match a mildly good shooting Miami team. Unless they are able to hit 3-point shots, Game 3's result may not be any different.