Miami Stops Hornets on Their Home Court

Charlotte Comes Up Short Trying to Rally from 17-point, 4th-Quarter Deficit
by Matt Rochinski

By Matt Rochinski

There are games down the stretch in this Eastern Conference playoff race that the Charlotte Hornets are going to wish they had back - games that find a way to slip through their fingers in what prove to be a few crucial moments leading to a win instead of a loss.

Wednesday’s contest against the Miami Heat at Spectrum Center was one of those games, as Charlotte fell 91-84 on its home court. Kemba Walker and Frank Kaminsky scored 20 points apiece to lead the Hornets as they dropped one game behind the Heat (30-34) in the playoff race at 29-35 overall. Kaminsky’s 20 points marked a season high as he scored 15 in the fourth quarter alone.

“I thought Frank was great tonight,” said Hornets Head Coach James Borrego. “He helped us. We couldn’t make a shot for the most part tonight and he was one of those guys that looked for a shot, was confident, got to the rim some and he was aggressive for us offensively, so I thought Frank was excellent tonight.”

In what was often an ugly game for both teams, Charlotte still managed to keep the game close when Kaminsky’s jumper with 8:38 remaining cut the Miami advantage to 69-65. Unfortunately for the Hornets, that’s when the Heat’s run began as they outscored Charlotte 17-4 in the next 4:23 to build their biggest lead of the game, 86-69.

Charlotte would miss seven-straight field goals during Miami’s run while also turning the ball over three times, leading to four crucial Heat points. Kelly Olynyk, who finished with a game-high 22 points, sparked Miami’s run with eight points in the game’s key moments.

Despite falling behind by 17 points in the fourth, the Hornets stayed in it with a late run of their own, outscoring Miami 15-2 in the next 3:23 of game action capped by a Walker three that trimmed the lead to 88-84 with 51.9 seconds remaining. In what might have been the most important possession of the night, Charlotte was able to get the defensive stop it needed when Olynyk’s shot from the right side was off the mark with 32.9 ticks on the clock. But Nic Batum was unable to grab the offensive rebound away from Dwyane Wade, leading to one of two free throws from Josh Richardson with 20.6 seconds remaining to push the lead to 89-84. Walker would miss a contested three from the top of the arc on Charlotte’s next possession and Hassan Whiteside would connect on two free throws moments later to seal the game.

Cody Zeller was the only other Hornet to finish scoring in double figures as he secured a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Led by double-doubles from Olynyk (22 points, 11 rebounds) and Whiteside (18 points, 15 rebounds), Miami dominated the Hornets inside against the zone, outrebounding them 52-40 while holding an 18-10 advantage on the offensive glass. The Heat also outscored Charlotte 48-24 in the paint and 19-12 in second-chance points.

“In a zone they’re going to get some offensive rebounds but I think there were some out there where we could have done a better job, be more physical on the board and against a team like that, that’s always key,” said Borrego. “It’s been a key against these guys and other teams as well but we have to do a better job on the board and limiting it to one shot. We played a lot of zone tonight so we got hurt on the board so give them credit for that because we got beat in the paint tonight and that was the difference because neither team shot the ball well. They got more possessions, more offensive rebounds and then the turnovers. I think we could have survived tonight, the way we shot the ball but we added to it with the turnovers. That just fueled some of their offense.”

The Hornets will wrap up their three-game homestand with a 7 p.m. tip on Friday against the Washington Wizards at Spectrum Center.