The Hornets came to play early and jumped out to a quick 16-7 lead to force a Heat timeout. They clearly wanted to play fast, and it worked wonderfully. They assisted on their first eleven made baskets, and the energy carried over to the defensive end as well. The Heat weren’t able to find any easy offense as the Hornets deflected a number of passes and blocked a handful of shots. Malik Monk splashed a 3-pointer in the waning seconds to put the Hornets up 40-23. They made eight 3-pointers in the quarter and assisted on 14 of 15 made shots.
Monk kept the good times rolling into the second quarter by splashing three triples and barely missing an incredible alley oop from half court (he was fouled and hit the free throws) in the Hornets first four possessions. By the time he was taken out for a breather, he had scored 21 points in nine minutes and 22 seconds, and the Hornets were up by 25. The lead ballooned as large as 30 at a couple of different points as the game settled into a more normal back and forth contest. Monk checked back in from his respite and immediately splashed another triple before he had the nerve to miss two shots in a row. The Hornets cruised into halftime with a 72-49 lead.
Devonte’ Graham hit a three to open the third quarter scoring. There was an interesting sequence a short time later where a referee blew the whistle as Terry Rozier fired a three due to a shot clock malfunction. The shot went in, and the referees originally decided to give Rozier the bucket, but after further discussion, they wiped the basket away. No harm though, as Rozier hit a three from almost the exact same spot a couple possessions later, and then Graham did the same a couple possessions after that. A 28 point lead was quickly cut down to 14 by a 16-2 run from the Heat. The only two points from the Hornets in that run came from Malik Monk, who hit another tough fadeaway to stymie the run a bit more. The quarter ended with Monk fouling Trevor Ariza as he tried to heave a half court buzzer beater. He hit two of the three free throws to cut the Hornets deficit to 13 heading into the fourth quarter.
Both team struggled to put the ball in the basket in the early stages of the fourth quarter. The Hornets had quite a few bad passes that led to turnovers, but they were able to prevent the Heat from capitalizing on the other end. The lead was as narrow as 11 and Tyler Herro had two chances to cut it to single digits, but he missed a pair of midrange jump shots. The Hornets looked to put the game out of reach with a little run, but the Heat came storming back with 12 straight points to narrow the Hornets lead to 5 with just over a minute to play. With the game officially in clutch time, Terry Rozier did what he does in clutch time and hit a tough jump shot to put the Hornets up 7. Duncan Robinson hit an impossible three over the outstretched arm of Bismack Biyombo, but the Hornets were able to see the game out through timeouts, free throws, and reviews that made the final minute of the game take about 20 minutes.
You don’t like to see the Hornets lose a big lead like that, but it does show the internal fortitude of this team to buckle down and see out the win when the Heat were mounting a comeback.
They’ll try to make it four in a row against the Suns on Sunday.