Hornets Comeback Comes Up Short in Miami

Hayward, Bridges Both Score 20+ PTS; Charlotte Can’t Erase Another Early Deficit
by Sam Perley

More Coverage: Game Action Gallery | James Borrego Postgame | Gordon Hayward Postgame

Friday night’s showdown in South Beach between the Hornets and Heat featured the NBA’s top-ranked offensive and defensive units, respectively, going head to head on ESPN. In the end though, it would be Miami that prevailed, 114-99, thanks in large part to its early physicality and intensity on the rebounding front.

The Heat set the tone quickly in this one by opening up a 26-point second-quarter advantage, then closed the first half shooting 47% with 18 more boards than the Hornets. Also trailing by 18 points at the break, Charlotte rallied to cut the deficit down to six in the fourth quarter before Miami eventually pulled away for good.

“We couldn’t get going until the second half,” said Head Coach James Borrego afterwards. “We showed some fight there, but a poor first half and a poor start led to some easy points for [Miami]. This team continues to battle and showed its resiliency and perseverance again. Proud of the effort in the second half, but it’s got to better there in the first half and for 48 [minutes] against a very good team like this.”

Gordon Hayward (23) and Miles Bridges (22) each crossed the 20-point barrier for Charlotte, with Cody Martin adding a career-high 15 points off the bench. For Miami, Jimmy Butler tallied a game-high 32 points and five assists, while Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro each scored 26.

Led primarily by Adebayo, who had 19 rebounds, the Heat bullied Charlotte on the glass the entire night and finished with a +23-rebounding differential (60-37). Probably the game’s deciding factor, Miami collected a back-breaking 16 offensive rebounds leading to 22 second-chance points, forcing the Hornets’ defense to constantly scramble and reset itself.

Said Hayward, “They’ve got big wings, Bam and even their guards get in there, too. It’s what they do, but we certainly have to fight better, so that’s on us. They killed us on the boards. If we can get defensive rebounds, we can push the pace, get out in transition, not let their defense set up and do what we do. It’s also draining when you get a stop and they get another chance, then you get another stop and they get another chance and another chance. I think that got to us a little bit. It’s hard to win when you get outrebounded like that.”

While Charlotte’s aggressiveness picked up in the second half, the hole was already too deep to climb out of against a very experienced, veteran-laden Heat squad. Starting games well has been an ongoing issue for the Hornets this season and rallying back from double-digit deficits every night isn’t going to be a long-term recipe for success.

Added Borrego, “We just have to play better [at the start]. There’s no magic sauce. I’m not going to do dances for them or give them a pep talk every single game. We have to play better – period. Both sides of the ball, we have to defend, we have to rebound, make shots, play together. That first unit has to get us off to a better start. That group has proven it can play good basketball. We just have to get off to better starts.”

The Hornets will be back at Spectrum Center on Sunday night, when they play host to the Portland Trail Blazers for the first half of an all-home back-to-back beginning at 7 PM ET.

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