- PG: Kemba Walker
- SG: Courtney Lee
- SF: Nicolas Batum
- PF: Marvin Williams
- C: Cody Zeller
Charlotte Hornets vs. Miami Heat Game 2 Preview
The Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat pick up their first round series with game two scheduled for 7:00 pm ET on Wednesday night in South Beach. Miami plays host for the second straight game after dismantling their division rivals rather easily in a brutal 123-91 victory in game one.
The Hornets are another one of those playoff teams this year that were kind of rebuilt on the fly. A slow-paced, methodical team with defense on the brain beforehand, Charlotte is now a pretty exciting team to follow. Nicolas Batum came over from Portland to give the Hornets a solid perimeter defender, as well as a borderline star that can shoot and score out on the wing.
Having an extra scorer has helped point guard Kemba Walker up his game a bit, and though he still is not the most efficient offensive player, he could finally be ready to lead the Hornets deep into the fray. Courtney Lee gives the starting five a very stable defender and an outside shooter, while Jeremy Lin can come off the bench to spell either Walker or Lee as a versatile combo guard that can score and distribute.
The loss (yet again) of elite perimeter defender Michael Kidd-Gilchrist really curbed the upside of Charlotte’s defense earlier in the year, but they’ve gotten by with Lee and Batum filling out the wing spots and Marvin Williams chipping in surprisingly very solid play as a decent stretch four. Williams didn’t show up at all in game one (a brutal 1 for 7 shooting), but on paper should win his matchup with Luol Deng and defend a lot better (Deng went nuts for 31 points in game one).
|4/17/16||At Heat||Lost 123-91|
|4/13/16||VS Magic||Win 117-103|
|4/11/16||at Celtics||Win 114-100|
|4/10/16||At Wizards||Lost 113-98|
|4/8/16||VS Nets||Win 113-99|
Williams’ inconsistency plays into the five spot for Charlotte, too, as they’re currently starting Cody Zeller and bringing the more polished Al Jefferson off the bench. That may be a matchup mistake with Miami having Hassan Whiteside down low.
Overall, the Hornets know the Heat and split the season series. Winning in Miami won’t be easy, but to get it done they will have to buckle down defensively and will likely need a big game out of Kemba Walker.
It’s fairly impressive how good the Heat are these days despite not having one of their best players in Chris Bosh (blood clots). Bosh is likely down for the count for the second year in a row, yet Miami persevered, won the Southeast Division crown and nabbed a solid #3 seed in an increasingly improving Eastern Conference.
- PG: Goran Dragic
- SG: Dwyane Wade
- SF: Joe Johnson
- PF: Luol Deng
- C: Hassan Whiteside
Without Bosh, Miami found a completely new identity, rolling with the versatile Luol Deng at the power forward spot and using elite rim protector Hassan Whiteside off the bench. That move proved to be genius, as Deng has thrived in his new role and that has also opened the door to a very balanced and explosive starting five that consists of veterans Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson.
Individually, all of Miami’s parts are solid but erratic, but as a whole they are collectively deep and balanced. The move from the bench to the starting lineup ultimately gave Whiteside a boost, as well, and could potentially put an already good Miami starting rotation over the top.
|4/17/16||VS Hornets||Win 123-91|
|4/13/16||at Celtics||Lost 98-88|
|4/12/16||at Pistons||Win 99-93|
|4/10/16||VS Magic||Win 118-96|
|4/8/16||At Magic||Lost 112-109|
Throw in quality rotation pieces like Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and Amare Stoudemire, and some think the Heat have the makings of an NBA Finals representative. Perhaps, but first thing on the agenda is getting past the Hornets. Miami knows they can make that happen after crushing Charlotte in game one, but it’s interesting that they did so with both elite offense and quality defense. If that keeps up, this series could be over a lot quicker than most experts thought was possible.
|4/17/16||Heat 123, Hornets 91|
|3/17/16||Hornets 109, Heat 106|
|2/5/16||Heat 98, Hornets 95|
|12/9/15||Hornets 99, Heat 81|
Miami dominated in the most recent meeting in game one, while the two Southeast Division foes split the regular season series, 2-2. Both teams were able to notch one win on the road, which is rather impressive considering both squads are at their best on their home floor. The Hornets were able to squeak out a close shootout in South Beach as recently as late March, while Miami had full control in Charlotte in early December.
This tight series extends into the 2014-15 NBA season, as well, with the Heat and Hornets splitting their season series (2-2) then, as well. That time both teams held serve and won both of their home games.
Matchup: Hornets @ Heat
|Win/Loss||48 / 34 (30-11 Home)||48 / 34 (20-21 Away)|
We know there is a clear style clash here, as Miami tends to try to control the pace with more methodical offense and tight defense. Charlotte can also defend at a high level, but they tend to push the tempo a bit more and boast a slightly more explosive offense. Of the two, of course, the Hornets have proven to be the more volatile and are rather difficult to gauge at times.
Miami and Charlotte were otherwise neck and neck in a very tight Southeast Division race, ending the year with the exact same overall record. Both teams had entered post-season play relatively hot, as well, with both winning three of their previous four contests.
Nothing stands out right away when it comes to either team’s against the spread numbers, as both have been largely average. Miami has done a better job overall, and also has been pretty impressive (32-21-1) when garnered the favorite. Their record is just as good at home ATS (24-17-1). Charlotte is right down the middle pretty much the whole way through, posting a 20-19-1 record ATS as the underdog.
Preview & Predictions
There are some very obvious factors that led to Miami winning big in game one. For one, they’re a very good home team and Charlotte is below average on the road. It shouldn’t have shocked anyone that Miami put in the work to make sure the first game in front of their home crowd wasn’t to be in doubt.
The fact that they won by 32, of course, was quite alarming. Charlotte is certainly better than that in terms of effort and production, but it shows their ugly side, which is one of inefficiency at times on offense. Nicolas Batum was the only Hornets player to perform like a star (24 points), while Kemba Walker just wasn’t aggressive enough. Batum needs to keep doing what he’s doing on both ends, Walker needs to step up his game and role players like Marvin Williams, Jeremy Lin and Courtney Lee need to start hitting shots. Charlotte was only average from deep in game one (34%) and wasn’t good enough as a whole (43% from the floor) to make up for their shaky defense.
Their defense wasn’t up to par, though, either, as they allowed Miami to shoot 50% from deep and 57% overall. That could be partially bad luck on the road, but maximum effort usually isn’t going to give way to maximum failure. Charlotte needs to dig deep and come to play in game two, knowing that stealing this game could give them a huge boost for when they head home in games three and four.
Ultimately, the Hornets either need Walker to have a huge game or Al Jefferson to take on a bigger role down low. Getting Hassan Whiteside off his game or even into foul trouble could be very key and it’s debatable whether or not Cody Zeller can effectively make that happen.
Picking the Hornets straight up isn’t really the plan here, as Miami is very good at home and obviously knows the Hornets very well. It’s tough to see Miami shoot 57% for a second straight game, though, especially against a rival who can actually defend well when they put their mind to it. Miami could still win and go up 2-0 in this series, but experts everywhere called this as a 7-game or at least 6-game series. Miami having the home court edge could change that quickly, but the Hornets deserve the benefit of the doubt here. They have the talent and grit to get the job done and give Miami a close game after not even showing up in game one.
Pick: Heat 102, Hornets 99
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