The Charlotte Hornets saw their success against the Miami Heat in Game 3 and decided that if it wasn't broken then there was no need to fix it. Their starting lineup kept Al Jefferson and Frank Kaminsky, and once again the focus early on was isolation heavy grind it out basketball. Reminiscent to last year's team this brought out bad memories after an incredibly slow start that led to only 19 points in the first quarter. Their defense was at the level they expect, but the offense could have definitely been better.
However, the Hornets got their offense going in the second quarter and went on a run that blow the doors off the early parts of the game. Kemba Walker couldn't be stopped as he sliced his way to the rim for layups, or stepped back for jumpers. Jeremy Lin came off the bench and once again made his presence known by forcing contact and drawing fouls on key players like Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside. Like Walker, he sliced his way to the rim and made some absolutely insane layups. With a double digit lead entering halftime it felt like Charlotte was once again going to run away with it.
That was until the third quarter when the Heat came out looking like we all expected them to. They didn't get back in the game through out of character 3-point shooting, but strong defense and good enough offense. They countered Charlotte's pick and roll attack well and forced the Hornets into bad looks inside. All the while continuing to prevent the Hornets from making 3-pointers. Charlotte's deadliest weapon all season has been turned into a complete non-factor this entire series. Credit to Miami and Erik Spoelstra for that.
Entering the fourth quarter, the Hornets maintained their lead but Miami was pushing strong. Dwyane Wade, who had been struggling to score all night, was causing havoc for the Hornets with his playmaking. Wade only finished with 12 points, but his 10 assists and seven rebounds were huge, and he made some big plays when needed. However, those big plays were usually sprinkled amid a series of bad ones. Miami's core of Wade, Hassan Whiteside, and Goran Dragic struggled to put together anything consistent all night. Whiteside once again faced foul trouble, and Dragic was just completely forgotten about. He only had 12 points, and his impact was barely felt.
Yet, despite Miami's core struggling, they were right in it throughout the fourth quarter. Kemba Walker had to come up big for the Hornets with shot after shot in an attempt to put Miami away. He finished the game with 34 points, and a good amount of those came late when Charlotte needed him to carry them. Of course, when asking one player to do that much sometimes it can lead to not so great things.
With the Hornets up, and less than a minute to go, they had the ball and were trying to milk the clock. Courtney Lee had just pulled down a huge rebound to give Charlotte the ball back, and Walker was holding on to it. What followed was Kemba's attempt to drain out the clock, but also try and throw away the game in one of the most hysterically bad final possessions in the history of basketball. He dribbled all over the place with defenders on top of him, and then shot a heave so bad that it probably made Steph Curry blush. That's when Lee once again came up with a huge rebound, and after being fouled was able to shoot two free throws that would ice the game.
With this win the Hornets have tied the series at two games apiece heading back to Miami in a crucial Game 5. Whoever wins that one will head back to Charlotte with a chance to eliminate the other. It'll be interesting to see what adjustments the Heat make after their shooting has cooled down, and if the Hornets continue this trend of going back towards their grind it out days.