The Miami Heat take a 2-0 lead over the Charlotte Hornets with a 115-103 win. Steve Clifford thought everything was fine, so why change things this time around? Kemba Walker scored meaningless points, Jeremy Lin had a difficult to define game, but overall, the Heat keep having their way on both ends of the floor, comfortably rolling towards what should be a place in the conference semifinals.
The only difference between the two losses? The Hornets didn’t fall apart in this one. The Heat opened up an 18-point lead at some point, but this wasn’t the absolute disgrace the first game was. The Hornets offense was better (from 109 rating to 114.1 in game 2) and their defense wasn’t a catastrophe, simply bad, as the Heat went down from 147.4 to 127.2 points per 100 possessions. It’s still not even close, and now the Hornets have only home court to hopefully change the dynamic of where this is going, at least avoiding a sweep.
Lin had a weird game. He finished with 11 points in 27 minutes and actually a +3 for the Hornets when he was playing. He was just 2-for-7 from the field, 0-for-3 from beyond the arc, but doing a great job of getting to the line, finishing with 7-for-8. He had no assists, and got sucked into the no ball movement movement the Hornets seem to be caught up in since the playoffs began, finishing this time with an even worse nine assists (had 11 in the first game).
Steve Clifford offers nothing, as he keeps talking about it simply being a matter of execution instead of planning and tactics. He had himself a little moment of answering back to the media, tired of hearing the word adjustments and changes. But what can you do: When you get outscored by 44 points in two games and give up a total of 238 points in the two of them, you’re not getting away with saying it’s simply a matter of making shots and trying harder on defense.
Nicolas Batum hurt his ankle, again, and now is out for at least one game unless a miracle happens. This should put Lin in the lineup as it has in the past, but while this hasn’t been the best of series for Batum, it’s going to be difficult carrying on without him. Kemba Walker scored 29 points on 12-for-29 from the field and 1-for-6 from beyond the arc. He played 42 minutes. His shooting was OK early on, but is the chief engineer behind stopping the ball from moving, as the Heat decided to let the Hornets attack the rim (Al Jefferson scored 25 points and got Hassan Whiteside in foul trouble) and simply stop the three point shot. The Hornets took bad shots, finished with 1-for-16 from beyond the arc, and didn’t seem like they’re trying to generate better, open looks.
There are other weird things going on besides the ease in which the Hornets enter the paint time and time again, especially Dwyane Wade, averaging 22 points with 9.5 assists in the series, scoring 28 in the game 2 win. Tyler Hansbrough isn’t being used while Frank Kaminsky gets 19 minutes, taking just one shot. He doesn’t defend or do anything besides shoot well at times, and he takes just one shot? Spencer Hawes in 7 minutes wasn’t much better, but could be a better option if he’s fit to play for more than 7 minutes.
Basically, it looks like the Hornets are screwed. Clifford is doing all the things the Heat want him to do, and at least from what he’s been saying, it’s not going to change. Maybe Lin getting more minutes and being in the lineup will force the Hornets to play a different kind of basketball, but at this point it might not be enough. This is looking more and more like the road towards a sweep, the third in a row for the franchise when they actually make it into the playoffs.