Much like Game 3, the Charlotte Hornets used a big run to separate themselves from the Miami Heat in the third quarter. This time the Heat responded, pulling themselves to as close as one, but a couple of late errors prevented the Heat from ultimately catching up as the Hornets won a close 89-85 game to tie the series at two games a piece.
Joe Johnson led the Heat with 16 points and seven rebounds. Dwyane Wade contributed 12 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds and Luol Deng chipped in with 15 points and seven rebounds.
Hornets star Kemba Walker erupted for a playoff career high 34 points and fellow guard Jeremy Lin also had a huge game with 21 points.
The Hornets began the third quarter on a 9-0 run to build a huge 57-39 lead just three minutes into the second half. But unlike Game 3, where the Heat faltered after the Hornets went on a 18-0 run, the Heat starters rallied to bring the Heat within one, 60-59.
Going into the fourth quarter down eight, 69-61, the Heat went deep into their bench with Udonis Haslem and Gerald Green playing significant minutes. The Hornets guards, who created havoc all night, destroyed the Heat in the fourth quarter. Lin supplied the Hornets' first seven points of the quarter, including an and-1 that drew Dragic's fifth foul right when the period started.
After Lin's burst that put the Hornets up over 10, the Heat again responded with a 8-0 run and strong defense to pull the game to 76-75 with six minutes left. But Walker, who asserted himself as star, went on a tear, scoring 11 straight points to respond to every Heat bucket.
Despite Walker's uncontrollable offensive destruction, the Heat found themselves down by two with 29 seconds to go. But after a Walker miss, Courtney Lee, who just got an offensive rebound on the play before, garnered his second straight offensive board and sank two free throws to make it a two-possession game with four seconds left. The trio of Walker, Lin and Lee ended up scoring all 20 of Charlotte's points in the fourth quarter. Wade missed his last shot as the buzzer sounded and Heat walked off the court with a close 89-85 loss.
Now, with both teams winning games on their home court, the series turns to a best-of-three series. The Heat must get into a rhythm early, stay out of foul trouble and protect their homecourt advantage in Game 5. The containment of Walker and Lin, who combined for 55 points, must be addressed as well.
The Heat's guards will also have to find their touch in addition to holding it down on defense. Dragic, in the two games in Charlotte, put up just 23 points and seven assists on 9-of-23 shooting. The starting point guard dealt with foul trouble in both games as did Hassan Whiteside tonight. Whiteside, who was limited by foul issues and a bruised thigh, had his worst game of the series with eight points, seven rebounds, three blocks and three turnovers in 25 minutes.
There will be plenty of ways the Heat can improve ahead of the biggest game of their season. While some will come in practice, others will come in the form of plain success in shooting. The Heat, after combining for 238 points in Games 1 and 2, failed to pass 85 in both games in Charlotte and shoot over 40 percent.
Tune in for a crucial Game 5 in Miami on Wednesday @ 8:00 p.m.