Written by David W. Walters
The Charlotte Hornets (2-3) found themselves in another tight game down the stretch at home against the Miami Heat (3-2), but were able to pull out the 96-89 victory to snap a three game slide.
The Hornets had a 46-44 lead going into the half but jumped out to a sizeable lead in the third quarter behind almost let this one get away as they went cold at the end of the fourth quarter, the Heat were able to get their deficit down to three, but then Kemba Walker knocked down a big three and Charlotte was able to close the game out.
The Hornets have been behind by as much as 14 points in each of their previous four games, but the largest lead they allowed the Heat to get in this one was a two point edge. Charlotte showed a huge improvement on the defensive side of the ball, different from the unorganized team we had seen in the previous three games. Miami had shot well from long range this season so far, but the Hornets were able to chase them off the line and force the Heat to shoot a paltry 4-22 from outside.
Charlotte also dominated the glass as a team, 49-36, with 13 of those boards coming on the offensive side, allowing the Hornets to convert some easy second chance points as they led that category 20-7. Overall, the Hornets looked more focused on both ends of the ball tonight as players are beginning to gel with each other; hopefully Charlotte can get some continuity going as they are preparing to go on a week long west coast swing after their home game against the Hawks on Friday.
Al Jefferson was dominant in the paint against the Heat, finishing with a game high 28 points to go with 10 rebounds and three blocks. Walker found his shot again, as he contributed 18 points on 5-6 shooting from the field to go with four rebounds, seven assists and two steals.
Lance Stephenson played a season high 36 minutes and looked as comfortable as he has been all season on his way to a terrific all-around game with eight points, a team high 13 rebounds and four assists. He also drew the assignment on Chris Bosh most of the night and did an admirable job on the all-star forward.
Cody Zeller has seemingly improved in each game this season and continued that trend chipping in 13 points and eight rebounds, although his five fouls in 17 minutes held back what could have been his best night as a pro.
Rookie P.J. Hairston played well in his second game of the regular season, scoring seven points and coming up big on the defensive end with three big blocks. An interesting statistic shows that the Hornets were +23 with Hairston on the floor, meaning that Charlotte was very effective while he was on the floor.
After the game, Jefferson said, “we finally did what we were supposed to do…when we finally do what we’re supposed to do, we get stops.”
The Heat were carried by the usual suspects in this one, with Bosh and Dwyane Wade leading the way. Bosh continued his hot start to the season with 23 points and 13 rebounds while Wade contributed a team high 25 points to go with four rebounds and three assists.
Charlotte’s win tonight snaps a 16-game losing streak against Miami, with their last win versus the Heat coming on March 9th, 2010 in Charlotte (83-78).
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist missed his second straight game for the Hornets as he recovers from a rib contusion suffered in New York; Gerald Henderson started in his place.
The Hornets are back on the honeycomb hardwood on Friday night when they face off against another division foe, the Atlanta Hawks.
you can follow David W. Walters @Original_DWade.