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Preview: Hornets face the Eastern Conference leading Miami Heat

With only four games to go and play-in seeding on the line, this is a big one.

Miami Heat v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

What: Charlotte Hornets (40-38) at Miami Heat (51-28)

When: 7:30 PM ET

Where: FTX Arena; Miami, FL

How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

As At the Hive’s Jonathan DeLong outlined yesterday, every one of the Hornets remaining four games can have a massive impact on the Eastern Conference play-in tournament. Charlotte currently sits at the No. 9 spot by virtue of holding a tiebreaker over the Brooklyn Nets who also have a 40-38 record. The Hornets are one full game behind the Atlanta Hawks for the pivotal No. 8 seed where one win in the play-in tournament guarantees a spot in the playoffs.

Miami is 3-0 against the Hornets on the season with their last matchup going into double overtime.

This one’s big, folks.

Miami Heat overview

Miami currently has the best record in the Eastern Conference at 51-28 and come in hot. They have won each of their last four games, three of which were against solid playoff teams in the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, and Toronto Raptors. The Heat are a little dinged up with point guard Kyle Lowry and forward P.J. Tucker being listed as day-to-day.

Assuming Lowry suits up tonight, he’ll play his usual role as the heady veteran leading the offense with averages of 13.4 points and 7.6 assists per game. Starting shooting Max Strus averages 10.6 points in 23.3 minutes per game. Small forward Jimmy Butler continues his personal mission to destroy every opponent in his path and averages 21.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 1.7 steals. Power forward P.J. Tucker contributes veteran leadership and almost no stats. Center Bam Adebayo has been brilliant this year averaging 18.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.4 steals.

Miami’s bench is led by Tyler Herro, an electric scorer who averages 20.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists while hitting 39.3% of his 3-pointers. Wing Duncan Robinson chips in 10.9 points per game but is only hitting 36.7% of his 3-pointers after drilling nearly 44% last year and 47% in 2019-20. Former Hornet Caleb Martin is questionable for tonight’s game, but he’s been good with the Heat averaging 9.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 22.8 minutes per game.

How the Hornets can win

As noted earlier, the Heat have won all three games between these teams this year. One of the main reasons for Miami’s success against the Hornets has been the dominant play of Bam Adebayo. Against the Hornets this year he has gone off for 26 points and 19 rebounds, 20 points and 12 rebounds, and 15 points and 13 boards in their three contests.

Adebayo is a singular force on the Heat who has no adequate replacement on Miami’s roster. Neutralizing him in the paint would go a long way in securing a huge win. Let’s hope Mason Plumlee and Montrezl Harrell are up to the task.

Poll

What’s your prediction for tonight’s game?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Hornets win easy
    (7 votes)
  • 23%
    Hornets win a close one
    (17 votes)
  • 28%
    Heat win a close one
    (21 votes)
  • 38%
    Heat win easy
    (28 votes)
73 votes total Vote Now