Hornets, Heat Meet Again in Potentially Playoff-Altering Showdown

By Sam Perley
by Sam Perley

It’s the most important game of the season up to this point for the Charlotte Hornets as they conclude their four-game road stretch with a huge matinee tilt against the Miami Heat beginning today at 1 p.m. ET.

Charlotte leads the season series, 2-1, after the Heat picked up a 91-84 road victory back on March 6. The hosts got 20-point games from Kemba Walker and Frank Kaminsky, but struggled immensely on offense against Miami’s zone defense, shooting just 36.6 percent from the field (30-of-82) and committing 21 turnovers. Currently, Miami sits in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, 1.0 game in front of the Hornets, who are tied for ninth with the Orlando Magic.

Cody Zeller’s status is still in flux (left knee soreness) and if he’s out for a third straight game, look for Bismack Biyombo to join the Charlotte first unit again. The Congolese vet had 11 points and four rebounds (all offensive) in Friday’s win in Washington and as a starter this season, is averaging 6.4 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 1.3 BPG, while shooting 56.0 percent from the field over 18 total outings.

The Hornets will need Biyombo’s physicality and basket protection against rising Miami forward Bam Adebayo, a second-year big man from Kentucky. One of the best young rim-runners in the game, Adebayo is averaging 13.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.6 APG and 1.0 SPG over his last five games, while shooting 75.0 percent and 85.9 percent from the field and free-throw line, respectively.

Miami also dominated Charlotte on the boards in their last meeting, 51-40, which included a 17-10 edge in offensive rebounds (Hassan Whiteside accounted for 9 alone). If Zeller can’t go again, the Hornets will absolutely need big frontcourt performances from Biyombo, Kaminsky, Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in order to grab what would be a huge win down in Miami.

Game Note – Miami is 5-2 in its last seven games. The Heat held a 20-point halftime lead at home against Milwaukee on Friday night, but lost 113-98… Charlotte has not swept both road games against the Heat in a single season since 2001-02… Miami is just 16-20 at home this season, the worst such record for any NBA team currently in playoff position.

Classic Fact – The Miami Heat drafted Glen Rice from Michigan with the fourth overall pick in the 1989 NBA Draft, one spot before the Hornets took J.R. Reid out of North Carolina. Rice was traded to Charlotte in 1996 and then was later dealt coincidentally with Reid and B.J. Armstrong to the Lakers in exchange for Eddie Jones and Elden Campbell in March of 1999.