In the midst of the ecstasy surrounding the biggest post-Bobcats victory ever, and a certain 2 guard's uncanny knack for offensive rebounds, here are some relatively unemotional, purposely non-homer-ific observations of what was a real-life signature win for a franchise in desperate need of one.
Here we go.
FINALLY we saw the Hornets that we had grown to love all season. Marvin Williams came back from the dead leading the squad with 17 points, and with him came the Hornet's long lost 3-point shooting, as the team went a Heat-like 12-24 beyond the arc. Plus, the Hornets defense decided to join them in South Beach this time around. The help was crisp, hands were active, and non-shooters were defended with about as much attention as the referee's paid to Hassan Whiteside's pregame whining.
Spo is apoplectic. This crowd could burn this place down if it's another anti Heat officiating night— Chris Wittyngham (@ChrisWittyngham) April 28, 2016
This is assuming of course, the majority of fans have made it to their seats https://t.co/HLkjh83Buy— Jack Bedrosian (@JBedrosian) April 28, 2016
Playmakers and rotations:
Often teams not named the Oklahoma City Thunder will stagger the playing time of their best players in order to ensure that whatever lineup is on the floor will remain within at least a liberal standard deviation of on court competitiveness.
Steve Clifford generally does this well. Tonight did not seem to be one of those nights, and yet, as sometimes can happen, it simply did not matter.
With the caveat that Steve Clifford knows more about basketball than every writer alive (which he totally does) I would contend that a big part of the reason the Hornets found themselves down for much of the second half was due in large part to who Cliff decided to play.
For roughly a fourth of the game, the start of the game and the start of the second half to be exact, the Hornets played a lineup consisting of exactly one playmaker -- either Kemba Walker or Jeremy Lin. The Heat matched with a lineup complete with three creators of their own: Dragic, Wade, and Johnson.
The Hornets had a net rating of -5 with these lineups. A stretch in the third quarter where the Hornets missed ten straight field goals came to an end when Batum finally entered the game, picked up two quick assists and forcing a Miami timeout.
In fairness, Cliff was dealing with a roster in which one of his playmakers had a bum ankle, and the other two were just 48 hours removed from literally carrying their team to victory. Perhaps squeezing by with just a quarter of one guy on the floor is something to be celebrated. Either way, look for this to (hopefully) change in Game 6.
Capitalizing, or lackthereof:
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Heat lit the world on fire with a five man unit of Dragic / Richardson / Johnson / Winslow / McRoberts. For the Hornets part, they trotted out: Walker / Lin / Batum / Hawes / Zeller
Ok, ok, this combination of rookies and journeyman finished a -3 against the Hornets, but really Charlotte should have dominated. Instead they allowed the Miami to keep it close, partially because they chose that exact time to start both hoisting and bricking from the outside instead of attacking a basket being guarded by the terrible twosome of 6'5'' rookie Justise Winslow and FREEEAKING MCBOB.
Perhaps it was some understandable fatigue that set in for Walker and Lin, but if he's healthy, Batum should really look to attack the rim especially when Whiteside is out of the game, and there's no one on the floor that can match either his craftiness or his length. Speaking of Batum...
Return of the Frenchman:
While certainly not his finest showing of the year, it's difficult to state just how big his pair of 3's in fourth quarter were for a stagnant Hornets offense. Not to mention, Nic had not been a terribly prolific fourth quarter scoring option all season long. Oh, and did you see the one he caught at his ankles before promptly firing through the net?! Just great.
Zeller is very solid on D, but man he misses a ton of layups.— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) April 28, 2016
Frankly what's been a bit of a problem all year showed up again for Cody this game, though luckily it was made up for by the man's total hustle on defense, highlighted by a headfirst dive into the crowd.
Not to be overlooked, Kemba and Courtney Lee also missed point-blankers in the fourth quarter (goaltend?).
Courtney Lee had a single rebound all game and guess which one that was?
He was 1-8 from the field, and had just missed* the wide open go ahead layup with a minute left in a playoff game in which the winner, 82% of the time, ends up taking the series.
That, ladies and gentleman, is something that cannot be explained, at least not outside of massages and Bible studies.
PSA: If you know a Heat fan going to game 6 do your civic duty and offer them double what they paid for the tix.— Hive Talk Live (@HiveTalkLive) April 28, 2016