The storybook ending was all but solidified as the crowd erupted after Kemba Walker scored his 37th point to cut the deficit to two with just over a minute left in regulation. The Hornets had come back from down nine with three minutes remaining, and the Heat had no answer for Walker. At that moment however, Dwyane Wade, at the age 34, finished off a vintage performance as he hit two improbable shots in the final minute to propel the Miami Heat to a Game 6 victory. Now, instead of a series victory for the Hornets on their home floor, both teams will face off in a decisive Game 7 in Miami.
For most of the night, the Hornets chased the Heat after holding their last lead at the 8:24 mark back in the second quarter, and also trailed by double digits on two separate occasions. While defense was the problem in the first two losses of the series, it was the offensive struggles outside of Walker that halted the Hornets in Game 6. The Hornets shot 29.4% from behind the arc with only Walker and Frank Kaminsky contributing to the statistic. In addition, everyone outside of Walker and Al Jefferson shot 10 for 32 on the night, and contributed just four points in the fourth quarter. In order for the Hornets to win Game 7, they'll need much better performances out of Marvin Williams and Jeremy Lin, who shot a combined one for 15. Also, the Hornets need to become much more involved down the stretch, even if it does not involve scoring, as most players stood and looked on as Walker was left with most of the work in Friday's loss.
As alluded to earlier, defense was not at the forefront of problems in Game 6, but there were faults that should not go unnoticed. Goran Dragic, who scored 12 points in the second half, had an even larger input than his numbers depict. He definitely deserves credit, but was able to get into the lane way to easily to break down the Hornets' defense. His constant motion opened up gaps for Hassan Whiteside and Dwayne Wade, while also putting defenders out of rebounding position; an area of which the Hornets can ill afford to give leverage. As for Wade, Courtney Lee played as well defensively as he could have, and Hornets fans should be content with a similar performance today. It was the defense on Luol Deng that fans should not be as content with. Deng found all the looks he wanted early and finished with 21 points overall.
In order to advance to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, the Hornets will need to weather any storm that may occur on the road. It's never easy to walk into an opponent's building and win a Game 7, but the Hornets have won here before. Therefore, there should be no lack of confidence, or any major change in the game-plan. As for player statuses, it appears Nicolas Batum and Josh Richardson will both be questionable to play. Both players have been important off the bench, even Batum, who has played most of the series with a sprained ankle.
It has been a tremendous season to cover, and we certainly believe it won't conclude today. Instead, let's hope this game goes down in the history books as one of the greatest in Charlotte Hornets franchise history.