The Miami Heat, coming off an impressive road win in Orlando, fell to the visiting Charlotte Hornets 97-91. The Hornets were led by Kemba Walker, who scored 23, and a very strong performance from a Hornets bench that scored 51 points, but more importantly, defended impeccably in the 2nd half.
Miami led for the entire first half and built their lead up to 19 points early in the 3rd quarter, but Hassan Whiteside, who led Miami with 20 points and 14 rebounds, picked up his 3rd and 4th fouls in the quarter and the game quickly turned in Charlotte's favor. The Hornets packed the paint all night, blocking nine shots as a team and forcing bushels of turnovers (Miami committed 19 for the game). Miami's shooting from the beyond the arc, while effective overall at 14-34 (41.2%) failed them in the latter stages of the game and the team scored only 34 second half points.
Goran Dragic paced Miami with 14 points and 9 assists, Dion Waiters (13 points 7 rebounds), Tyler Johnson (12 points 6 rebounds), and Justise Winslow (10 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) were the other players to see double-figure scoring, but not a single player beyond Whiteside who attempted 10 or field goals shot 50% or above for the game.
When the game got tight in the 2nd half, Miami just didn't have enough counterpunches and a lot of forays to the basket were thwarted by swarming Hornet bodies. One of the benefits of Whiteside is that his offensive rebounding mitigates plenty of those at-the-rim misses, but with him missing a large stretch of the 3rd and 4th quarters, Miami's possessions were often one-and-done.
- James Johnson shot 0-6 from the field and committed two turnovers. He played very well Wednesday in Orlando so you hope he can bounce back, but Derrick Williams had a solid preseason and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets some minutes going forward.
- Justise Winslow now bears a much larger load on the offensive end. He was aggressive going to the rim, but the results were mixed. There were some nice layups, five impressive assists, but also four turnovers and 1-6 shooting from three. Winslow's development will be a fun ride, but remember he's only 20.
- Jeremy Lamb was the unsung hero for Charlotte, dropping 16 points off the bench (7-12 shooting) and playing the kind of defense that brought Charlotte back in the game. He had a few nifty floaters that bailed out a few Charlotte possessions.
- Michael-Kidd Gilchrist is a terror on defense. He blocked four shots and altered many other possessions. However, his offensive game (3 points, 1-5 shooting) took a step back after an impressive opening night showing (23 points 14 rebounds). He and Winslow are on a similar developmental curve with MKG benefitting from having experienced ball handlers who can also score in Walker and Batum. Winslow has a bit more "point forward" to his game than MKG.
- It's clear Luke Babbitt and Tyler Johnson are Miami's two best shooters right now. With their feet set, it's almost automatic (4-8 combined from three). Rookie Rodney McGruder shot 3-5 from three, but missed all four of his attempts inside the arc.