The Heat couldn't maintain the offensive rhythm they displayed during Game 1 and 2 on the road for Game 3. Destroyed by a 18-0 Hornets run, the Heat were unable to score for over seven minutes in the third quarter as Charlotte found ways to convert on the offensive side and avoid a 3-0 hole.
Prior to Game 3, Hornets head coach Steve Clifford made a large move by inserting Al Jefferson and rookie Frank Kaminsky in the starting lineup. While the dicey decision appeared to have backfired early in the game, Kaminsky, who Miami paid little attention to, found his groove in the second half and went on to punish the Heat. The 7-footer led the Hornets during their 18-0 run with 13 points in the third quarter.
Now the attention turns to Erik Spoelstra and the Heat as they figure out ways to counter Charlotte's winning solution. Part of the answer may come from how fast Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson and Goran Dragic can bounce back to guide the Heat. The trio shot a combined 14-of-44 from the field during Game 3 and prevented Miami from getting into any type of offensive consistency.
The Heat head coach talked about the challenge ahead:
When you're talking about two teams that have the same regular season record, that tied each other in head-to-head matchups, that's for a reason. There's not a lot of margin of error either way. And so a lot of times what decides games are the physicality, the disposition, urgency, 50-50 plays, things like that. It's not necessarily whether the ball is going in.
In addition to the deciding game factors is the health of players. Hassan Whiteside, who's arguably been the Heat's best player this series, did not practice Sunday due to a bruised right thigh. Despite missing six games in the regular season with a similar injury (strained left hip), the starting center said he is confident to give it a go. Meanwhile for the Hornets, Nicholas Batum (ankle) got his boot removed Sunday, received some treatment and is labeled as questionable for Monday's Game 4.
Miami Heat @ Charlotte Hornets
Game 4: Eastern Conference Playoffs First Round
7:00 PM EST
TV: NBATV, Fox Sports Sun / Radio: 790
Miami: Chris Bosh (blood clot) OUT, Tyler Johnson (shoulder) OUT
Charlotte: Nicolas Batum (left foot strain) QUESTIONABLE