Charlotte pulled off an upset win in a trip to Miami at the Spectrum Center. The North Carolina men won 122–117 and curtailed a good moment for the Heat, who had won their last three starts and who were looking to continue closing the gap regarding the first five places in the East. However, this setback prevents them from taking their eyes off the rear-view mirror, as their closest rivals, the Knicks, remain in their fight to secure the final direct access spot for the playoffs.
In spite of everything, Spoelstra’s team had clear dominance, especially in the early stages of the second half. With a 1-10 run from the locker room, they reached their maximum advantage of the night by keeping the score at 59-72, allowing themselves to dream of a victory, however, it was not to be. The Hornets’ response was immediate and forceful, with a good performance from Terry Rozier completely turning the tide.
The point guard finished as the night’s top scorer after going for 31 points due to his ability to attack the paint (6/7 in shots from the field) and his outside success (5/11), which made him the most consistent In addition, with his 7 assists, he was in charge of developing many of his teammates, which allowed him to make assists at critical moments, as was the case with PJ Washington in the third quarter. The forward scored 15 of the 27 goals the match ended with (8 of those 15, assisted by Rozier), and was fundamental in the 32–14 rout that the locals signed after seeing the scoreboard down by 13.
LaMelo Ball, on the other hand, was in charge of taking a step forward in the fourth period, scoring 13 of his 19 points and continuing the good momentum of the locals, who came to see themselves up 12. Although the Heat closed the gap and tightened the game again in the final minutes, it was already too late to avoid the fumble, and the Florida men once again fell victim to their inconsistency.
Clifford commented, “Having Lamelo and Hayward back makes a huge difference for us.” «If we find consistency in the group, I think we will be able to experience an expansion of good basketball. It helps players know who they are playing with and where the shots are coming from.”
In Miami, Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro tried to avoid defeat with 28 and 24 points, respectively, but it was not enough to extend the team’s good momentum and continue on the qualifying scale. Florida was the victim of their poor defense in transition, which gave the locals opportunities to add several easy baskets and prevented them from building a more noticeable lead in the third period and having the consistency they needed to respond in the fourth.
“They’ve had a lot of injury problems, but if they’re all healthy they’re a team that can score a lot differently than their numbers suggest,” Spoelstra said. “We haven’t been good defensively and they’ve made a lot of baskets on runs that have changed the momentum of the game.”
(Cover photo: David Jensen/Getty Images)