Latest Buzz: Charlotte Gearing Up for Game 7
By Sam Perley, hornets.com
The Charlotte Hornets will need a quick turnaround, both physically and emotionally, as they head back down to Miami following a tough 97-90 loss to the Heat on Friday night at Time Warner Cable Arena. While it would have been an unprecedented fourth-consecutive postseason victory for the Hornets franchise, the team has no time to wonder what could have been as they get ready for a huge Game 7 showdown in Miami on Sunday afternoon.
Things got off to a rocky start in Game 6 as the Hornets fell behind by three at the end of the first quarter, which was then stretched to nine by halftime. Charlotte managed to cut the deficit down to one possession multiple times in the second half but could never get back out in front as Miami’s Dwyane Wade hit a handful of tough shots down the stretch to seal the game for the Heat.
“In the first half we didn’t play with the purpose and organization that we’ve had most of the year and they took advantage of that,” said Hornets head coach Steve Clifford following the disappointing Game 6 loss. “The rebounding game was a big problem and those are the things we’ll have to do better Sunday.”
Kemba Walker poured in a series-high 37 points on 14-of-30 shooting to go along with three rebounds and a game-high five assists in the defeat. Although his tremendous effort ultimately wasn’t enough for the Hornets in Game 6, Walker knows the team will need to move on quickly if it wants any chance to win this series.
“It’s do or die. Both teams want to advance. It’s going to be a battle just like this whole series,” said Walker during post-game media availability following the Game 6 loss. “There’s a reason we’re going to a Game 7 and it’s because both teams have been scratching and clawing to get some wins it. We just have to lock back in, watch film, learn from our mistakes and be better. I think we will be.”
This will be Charlotte’s first Game 7 in a postseason series since the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals and just the second one overall. Charlotte also held a 3-2 series lead over the Milwaukee Bucks that year but dropped the final two games, preventing the team from advancing to its first Conference Finals in franchise history.
As disappointing as Friday night’s result was, the feeling the Hornets and their fans are likely experiencing right now is probably similar to what the Heat felt after its Game 5 loss two nights earlier. Anything can happen in the NBA Playoffs and there have been recent instances where a team has lost a deciding Game 7 on its own floor. Charlotte has proven it can win in Miami, doing so twice in its last four total visits to AmericanAirlines Arena, and despite a heart-breaking defeat in Game 6, these Hornets are as capable as anybody of pulling out this potentially-momentous victory on Sunday afternoon.
Key Matchup vs. Heat: Courtney Lee vs. Dwyane Wade
Stopping the Heat’s Dwyane Wade will be top priority for Courtney Lee and the Charlotte Hornets when they head back down to Miami for a winner-take-all Game 7 on Sunday afternoon… Lee has put up modest averages of 9.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists in the series’ three games in Miami but will be called upon mainly for a big-time defensive effort in Game 7 against the 12-time NBA All-Star… Now in his 13th NBA season, Wade has looked like his vintage self as of late, putting up averages of 20.2 points on 47.2 percent shooting, 5.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.2 blocks in the first six games of the postseason… The Heat will rise and fall with its franchise cornerstone Wade and shutting him down will be step number one for Lee and the Hornets if they want to pull off a tough Game 7 victory in Miami and advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.