Hornets beat Heat

The Miami Heat lost for a second straight game as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh continue to look for help from their teammates. They lost to a very good Charlotte Hornets team, led by Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker, finally beating a team they’ve struggled against for years, coming away with the 96-89 win.

Charlotte had lost 16-straight against the Miami Heat, but it’s a new day and a new year. LeBron James is gone to Ohio, while the Hornets, formerly the Bobcats, are no longer the laughing stock of the NBA. For the first time in forever, their expectations from this season are similar to what the Heat have in mind on how it will all play out. Even ground, even teams, with the individual talent possibly tipped in favor of the Hornets.

Not that Charlotte got too much from too many players. It was mostly about Al Jefferson, scoring 28 points, making defending in the paint extremely difficult for Chris Bosh. Kemba Walker scored 18 points and Cody Zeller added 13, as the Hornets scored 48 points, half of their offensive production, inside the paint. The Heat are missing Chris Andersen, maybe their best interior defender, and it showed for a second straight game as they faced off against one of the best big men in the NBA.

Lance Stephenson had another rough game, shooting just 3-of-12 from the field, scoring 8 points. But he made a couple of big plays and shots, including his coast to coast drive, as he tries to get out of his early-season funk. He’s shooting just 26.7% from the field and scoring six points per game. While the Indiana Pacers are missing him badly, the Hornets haven’t really made out like bandits with their addition due to his meager offensive contributions so far.

Chris Bosh scored 23 points and Dwyane Wade has 25. So far, the duo are doing what they’re supposed to. Their teammates? Not so much. The other Heat players shot just 34.1% from the field. The biggest problems came from the team’s three point guards: Norris Cole, Mario Chalmers and Shabazz Napier. The trio shot a combined 5-of-21 from the field, and the Heat did especially badly in the moments Cole was on the floor. Not getting consistency from that position, suddenly more important than in the LeBron years, is hurting the Heat against quality opponents.

The Hornets didn’t really have a problem facing their former player, Josh McRoberts, who is struggling with back problems, not doing much besides a nice first-half alley oop, his only two points of the game. But they are better without him, even if Marvin Williams isn’t someone to brag about. The defense looks very good and Stephenson, while possibly overpaid, will find his way to a better shooting percentage. Getting a bit more from their bench with consistency can be the thing that pulls them into another level. It can’t be all about Jefferson and Walker every time.

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