If the NBA playoffs started tomorrow the Charlotte Hornets would be on the outside looking in after losing to the Miami Heat 91-84. Kemba Walker and Frank Kaminsky led the way for the home team finishing with 20 points each. Miami’s Kelly Olynyk had a game-high 22.
The first quarter started out pretty even - with both teams shooting around 45% from the floor - but the Hornets’ defensive intensity subsided, allowing the Heat to score easier in transition and crash the boards. Miami closed out the period on a 19-8 run and would lead by nine heading in to the second.
Turnovers and 3-pointers were the theme of a strong 2nd quarter by the Hornets. Charlotte forced nine Miami turnovers, at one point getting three steals in a row, leading to a 17-4 run to open the period. The Hornets were also hot from outside, draining 5 of 10 3’s. Intensity on the defensive side of the ball held the Heat to 6-23 from the floor. The home team outscored Miami 25-14 in the 2nd and would head to the break tied at 43.
Both teams struggled from the floor in an uneventful 3rd quarter. The Hornets shot 27%, while the Heat shot 33%. Performance by both teams was relatively even and by the end of the period Miami led Charlotte 61-58.
With just a 3-point deficit and 8th place in the Eastern Conference on the line, it was critical for the Hornets to come out strong in the 4th quarter. The opposite happened. The two squads would trade baskets the first three minutes, but a 14-0 Heat run over the next 4:11 pushed the Hornets deficit to 16 with 4:49 remaining in the contest. Charlotte would counter with a 15-2 run of their own (led by Frank Kaminsky, who had 15 points in the period) and cut the Heat’s lead to 4 with 51 seconds left on the clock. But the push would prove to be to little to late and the Hornets would fall to Miami 91-84.
“We have to do a better job on the board limiting them to one shot,” James Borrego said after the loss. “We were playing a lot of zone tonight, so we got hurt on the boards. Give them credit for that. We got beat in the paint tonight, 48-24, and I think that was the difference. Neither team shot the ball well, they just got more possessions, more offensive rebounds and the turnovers. I think we could’ve survived tonight with the way we shot the ball, but we added to it with the turnovers that fueled some of their offense.”
The 4th quarter continues to be a weak spot for the Hornets. Staying in games or leading in games doesn’t matter if you can’t close them out. The Hornets have one day a rest before hosting the Wizards on Friday.