The Charlotte Hornets scratched and clawed in a defensive slugfest with the Miami Heat, but they ultimately fell in double overtime thanks in no small part to some heavy misfortune.
Miles Bridges got off to a hot start with the Hornets’ first seven points and 11 of their first 14. The Hornets struggled defensively, especially on the perimeter, in the early going as the Heat jumped out to a double digit lead early. The offense wasn’t great either outside of Bridges as the Hornets struggled to penetrate the Heat defense and settled for lots of unproductive passing on the perimeter. The game opened up as the starting lineups broke, and the Hornets found more rhythm. The Heat shot 74% from the field in the first quarter, but the Hornets still stuck around and trailed by seven after one.
The Hornets scored the first seven points of the second quarter thanks to some much improved defensive energy and focus. Kelly Oubre, who’s been unable to hit the broadside of a barn lately, suddenly decided to swish three straight 3-pointers on three straight Hornets possessions to put the Hornets ahead and force a Heat timeout. The Hornets were able to keep up that defensive fortitude all quarter and limited the Heat to just 10 second quarter points. Oubre and Montrezl Harrell carried the Hornets offense on the other end as they went into the break with a 54-47 lead.
The third quarter was a slugfest. Both teams played tight, physical defense that limited each other’s offensive output and resulted in a lot of bellyaching towards the officials from both sides. The Hornets went most of the third quarter without LaMelo Ball, who was pulled less than three minutes into the quarter after picking up his fourth foul. The Hornets missed 13 straight shots at one point and only made three shots from the field all quarter long, but they still played the Heat to an even 17-17 third quarter. They made their living at the line and suffocated the Heat on the other end to go into the fourth quarter with a 71-64 lead.
Montrezl Harrell scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter to put the Hornets up 14 and force a Heat timeout. Duncan Robinson hit a tough three in the corner to break the seal for the Heat and start a little back and forth. The Heat caught a big break when Robinson splashed a three while being ever so slightly grazed by Ball. It was Ball’s fifth foul, and the 4-point play cut a huge chunk out of what felt like a comfortable 11 point Hornets lead. It was part of seven straight Heat possessions that resulted in points as the Heat overtook the Hornets lead with just under two minutes to play.
The Heat’s veterans fell a couple of times to earn some cheap free throws , but Lowry missed a key second free throw to keep the Heat’s lead at two. Ball found Harrell with a bullet pass on the other end to tie the game up. Jimmy Butler’s last second fadeaway fell short.
After some free throws, a LaMelo Ball 3-point play and a Miles Bridges 3-pointer gave the Hornets a lead, but Kyle Lowry scored seven straight points, including a 3-pointer with his foot on the line that was never corrected. After a PJ Washington bucket and Heat turnover, Washington found Harrell on the baseline for a dunk attempt. He was fouled, but he hit just one of the two free throws. An extra point would have been nice to have here. Another Butler jumper went begging, and the game went to a second overtime.
The Hornets got the first bucket of the second overtime, but the Heat answered with five straight and lots of offensive rebounds. LaMelo Ball fouled out about midway through the overtime period as a stray arm caught a Heat player while he attempted to gather a loose ball. A couple of Jimmy Butler jumpers put the game away down the stretch despite the best efforts of Miles Bridges.
But don’t forget, the game shouldn’t have gone into the second overtime to begin with.
It’s an extremely frustrating end to the first phase of the season and probably would justify a protest by the Hornets.
LaMelo Ball got a triple double. Miles Bridges and Montrezl Harrell played well. It’s time for the all star break.