In yet another memorable game, the Miami Heat grabbed another huge win for their playoff chase against the pesky Charlotte Hornets 91-84 on the road Wednesday night. The win put the Heat back in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Not only had the Hornets already beaten them twice this season, but Miami simply had to begin stringing together victories to climb up in the standings and that’s precisely what they’re doing. They’ve now won three straight, including four of their last five games.
Miami’s big man duo of Hassan Whiteside and Kelly Olynyk shined brightest in an almost “old school” low-scoring affair. Olynyk led the team with 22 points, along with 11 rebounds, on an efficient 8-14 field goal shooting including 5-7 from beyond the arc. He is continuing to thrive as a starter with consistent minutes, playing all but three minutes of tonight’s game, and a featured role on offense.
Bam Adebayo had some solid moments, mostly in the first half, as a starter but Whiteside was an unstoppable force on both ends of the court tonight and the Hornets couldn’t do anything about it. He scored 18 points, blocked four shots, grabbed 15 rebounds — nine of them off the offensive glass, and was a force in the paint in just 20 minutes. In a role reversal with Bam, he was the big man who came off the bench and made a huge impact immediately with boundless energy and subsequently earning fourth quarter minutes.
Though Dwyane Wade struggled from the field, his appearance alone inspired Heat Nation to come out in force and it came close to sounding like a home game when the final buzzer sounded to cheers and applause.
Both teams went back and forth trading blows in the opening moments but the Heat would soon race out to take the double-digit lead with an 11-2 run as part of a 19-8 advantage to close the first quarter. Turnovers and the Hornets switching up their defense contributed to the Heat scoring just 14 points in the second quarter, erasing their lead. Kemba Walker, who was largely ineffective for the night thanks to Miami’s stifling defense, tied the game at 35-35 with a 3-pointer at the halfway point of the second quarter and the teams were deadlocked 43-43 at halftime.
Both teams would take turns taking the lead and the Heat couldn’t take control of the game despite the Hornets shooting 36.6% from the field for the night and Walker not making much of an impact on the game. Strangely, the Heat wouldn’t take their third free throw of the game until five minutes remained in the third quarter.
Whiteside was the star of the fourth quarter but in truth it was a total team effort when it mattered the most, with each Heat player in the game contributing and it resulted in another double-digit lead on a 15-2 run. Frank Kaminsky got red hot from 3-point territory to make it interesting but Miami made just enough plays in crunch time to hold on for the huge win.
The lackluster shooting and head scratching turnovers from both teams ensured the score would stay low but with so much riding on the game it was still riveting regardless. The Miami need to take better care of the ball, a healthy Goran Dragic (who again sat out) would help matters tremendously, but they are finally showing some real progress with several players stepping up.
The Heat will host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday at 8:00 p.m.