Both teams alternated baskets in the paint early in the game, and that proved to the theme of the game for one team in particular. Both teams got hot for the final few minutes of the quarter as the score quickly climbed into the thirties. After one, the Hornets trailed 35-32 thanks to this touchdown pass from LaMelo Ball:
Ball continued a strong run of play from the end of the first quarter with six points early in the second. The Hornets as a team played well for the most part, but the veteran Heat team was able to ward off every run and keep the Hornets from ever overtaking them. PJ Washington hit a 3-pointer at the 4:15 mark of the quarter, which marked the onset of an offensive dry spell, a reoccurring trend for the Hornets over the last few weeks. They did not make another shot until Devonte’ Graham hit a 3-pointer with ten seconds left. Thankfully some free throws and passable defense kept the Hornets relatively close. At the half, they trailed 65-58.
Things unraveled in the third quarter. The Hornets scored the first five points to cut the deficit to two, but they would only score 17 points over the next 11 minutes. They were overmatched by the Heat’s physicality. Dewayne Dedmon muscled his way to 11 points in the period while the Hornets struggled to keep the Heat out of the paint and struggled to get looks in the paint for themselves. By the time the the third quarter ended, what had been a close game had turned firmly in the Heat’s favor.
Miles Bridges stole an errant pass and then splashed a three to get the Hornets off to the start they needed in the fourth, but the Hornets again could not build off it. The Heat responded with seven straight points that all but put the game away. The bench played pretty well down the stretch, but the game was too far out of reach for it to mean anything.
PJ Washington led the Hornets with a well spread out 21 points. Miles Bridges (15), LaMelo Ball (14), Terry Rozier (14), Jalen McDaniels (12), and Malik Monk (11) joined him in double figures. The Hornets played decently well on offense, but ultimately lost the game because they were unable to defend the paint without fouling.
They’ll try to get right on the road against the Pistons on Tuesday.