The Charlotte Hornets have struggled in 2017 for numerous reasons, but one that continues to haunt them is their inability to close out games. Such was the case Wednesday night, as they fell to the Miami Heat, 108-101, despite leading at the start of the fourth quarter. Kemba Walker led all scorers with 33 points, while Dion Waiters led Miami with 24 points, knocking down five 3-pointers.
Miami led in the early parts of the first quarter, but an 11-4 run helped Charlotte jump out to a 20-13 lead. Miami closed the gap slightly, but the Hornets led by four heading into the second quarter.
The Heat evened things up in the second, and the teams entered halftime tied at 54-54, but a strong third quarter gave the Hornets a five point lead heading into the fourth.
From there, the story was all too familiar. Marco Belinelli knocked down a 3-pointer two minutes into the fourth, which briefly stopped an early run from Miami, and gave Charlotte an 89-84 lead. Then, Miami scored 12 straight, taking a 96-89 lead with just under six minutes remaining. Suddenly, they were in control, and Charlotte — who had scored 32 points in each of the two previous quarters, managed only 15 in the fourth, and ran out of time to make any kind of comeback.
Its disheartening losing this way, when through three quarters the team looked largely like the one that excited fans in November and December. But team of January continues to linger, and when it shows itself at the end of the game, as it did tonight, it makes for a frustrating evening.
Charlotte faced the tough task of stopping the hottest team in the NBA tonight. It meant dialing down on the likes of Waiters, Goran Dragic, and Hassan Whiteside. Dragic was able to have his typical night, but they managed to limit Whiteside to just 10 points, and held Waiters to 15 before he knocked down three 3-pointers in the final four minutes of the game.
Ultimately, margins are slim in the NBA, and the Hornets are finding that out too often this season at the end of games, and while it hasn’t technically cost them the playoffs yet, it’s likely heading that direction.