Charlotte’s return to the postseason has not gone exactly according to plan. After an abysmal 123-91 loss in Game 1, they managed to put together a 12-point loss in Game 2. The season hangs in the balance as the series shifts back to Charlotte, and the Hornets are left searching for answers: what went wrong in Miami?
The Heat’s, uh, Hot Shooting
Charlotte’s defense in the series hasn’t lived up to Steve Clifford’s high expectations, but no one was expecting the Heat to be shooting so well. The Heat were one of the worst three-pointing shooting teams in the league during the regular season, but they’ve shot 18-34 (53%) during the playoffs. Luol Deng has hit everything he’s looked at, Dwyane Wade is dominating his defender on post-ups, and Hassan Whiteside is channeling the spirit of a younger Shaquille O’Neal, shooting 17-19 in the series. There have been flaws in Charlotte’s normally stout defense, but the Heat have been scoring at what is (probably) an unsustainable rate.
Die by the Three, or Marvin Williams’ Revenge
The Hornets were fourth in the league in three-pointers made during the regular season, but they’ve gone remarkably cold against the Heat. After shooting an ugly 6-17 during the first matchup, they shot an even uglier 1-16 in the second. The Heat deserve some credit for that, but just like Miami’s shooting, this seems unsustainable.
The other issue for Charlotte has been Marvin Williams’ shooting – he hit one shot in the first game and was 0-10 from the field and 0-2 from the line on Wednesday night. Williams was a solid stretch four for most of the year, but it might be time to try something different for the next game. Al Jefferson has played well, but he probably can’t stay on the floor when the Heat go small – especially if they put Justise Winslow at center again. The only tangible thing provided so far by Frank Kaminsky in this series has been proof that he shouldn’t have been picked over Winslow. Spencer Hawes saw some time on Wednesday after Nicolas Batum’s injury, and will probably play more in Game 3.
The Hornets don’t have too many options in the front court, and the Batum injury gives them even less. Still, it’s hard to believe that this is the best one:
Despite both losses being ugly and miserable, there have been some silver linings, even if they are razor thin. The shooting of both teams is so far off their season averages that it stands to reason that both will regress toward the mean, even if only slightly. The Hornets also started off very well on Wednesday and, after getting down big in the third quarter, managed to fight back and make it look like an actual game. There are reasons to have some hope. At least, there were before the news that Nicolas Batum will likely miss the rest of the series. Still, let’s look at some positives.
Charlotte’s Rebounding Rebounds
Rebounding was yet another area that the Hornets expected to have an advantage in, only to end up losing. In the regular season, Charlotte pulled in a league-leading 79.8% of the available defensive rebounds. Meanwhile, the Heat were exactly at the league average when it came to offensive rebound rate. Charlotte was expected to limit Miami’s second chances and limit their chances to score. Instead, the Heat grabbed 14 offensive boards in the first game, compared to 21 defensive rebounds for Charlotte. In other words, Miami grabbed 40% of their own misses – if they didn’t score the first time, they had almost a 50/50 shot of getting the ball back immediately.
Game 2 saw a reversal of that trend – the Heat only grabbed 3 offensive rebounds and the Hornets managed 15, several of which came on the Marvin Williams/Cody Zeller comedy of errors seen above. Of course, it’s hard to grab offensive rebounds when you’re already making 57.9% of your shots from the field. Assuming Miami’s shooting cools off, the shift in the battle on the boards bodes well.
Back in Buzz City
A 2-0 series deficit is bad, but losing both away games isn’t exactly unprecedented. As the series comes back to Charlotte, the Hornets will need to protect their honeycombed home court if they want to have any chance of winning the series. There is reason for hope here – the Heat were bad on the road this year, with a record of 20-21 away from Miami. The Hornets managed a 30-11 home record in the regular season. If there’s any reason for optimism after the two ugly games in Miami, this is a big one. A hostile environment might be just enough for the Heat to slow down a bit.
Things look bad.To be perfectly honest, they are. With Batum likely missing the series, it may seem impossible. But this isn’t over yet. The Hornets have a chance. If they can’t win the series, they can at least win one game and keep some of their pride.
Game 3 is on Saturday. The Hornets have their work cut out for them.