The Heat gave the Charlotte Hornets a rude welcome back to the NBA playoffs, scoring 41 points in the first quarter en route to a 123-91 Game 1 victory Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Heat’s 123 points are the most Miami has ever scored in a postseason game and the most Charlotte has ever allowed in a playoff contest.
“We played, defensively, a terrible game,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “Disorganized … not intense … nothing like what we’re going to have to do.”
Miami shot 58 percent from the field and outscored Charlotte 56-36 in the paint. Luol Deng led the Heat with a season-high 31 points, and Hassan Whiteside chipped in 21 points and 11 rebounds.
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“Particularly up front, we just got manhandled,” Clifford said. “If Deng and Whiteside are going to combine for those kind of numbers, then it’ll be hard for us to win.”
Charlotte gave up just over 100 points per game during the regular season, ninth-best in the NBA, but Hornets forward Al Jefferson said the postseason presents a different challenge.
“It’s a whole other ballgame,” Jefferson said. “There’s a whole other focus and mind-set. … I think we learned that [Sunday night].”
Several Hornets said the team’s poor performance was because of a lack of execution, not a lack of preparation.
“Coach gave us an awesome game plan, and we just completely went against it,” Hornets guard Kemba Walker said. “We’re usually the team that plays mistake-free. Unfortunately, tonight that wasn’t the case.”
“We weren’t surprised at all,” forward Marvin Williams said. “Everybody’s prepared for everybody. They just did a better job of executing their game plan on both ends than we did.”
Miami’s game plan included plenty of Deng corner three-pointers, Whiteside slam dunks and hard drives to the basket by Dwyane Wade and Justise Winslow.
Winslow took Charlotte forward Frank Kaminsky to the basket twice early in the second quarter. The Hornets’ rookie had spent the season transitioning from defending the post in college to guarding NBA wing players like Winslow.
“Playoff basketball is a whole different level,” Kaminsky said. “I’m going to have to make adjustments and pick up my game if I want to help our team win.”
Kaminsky was also surprisingly absent from Charlotte’s offensive attack. He did not attempt a field goal and missed his only two free throws.
Clifford said he doesn’t anticipate making many changes before Game 2, despite the Heat’s record-breaking offensive onslaught.
“Sometimes you can be knee-jerk in the playoffs,” Clifford said. “You don’t have one bad performance and then just start changing everything.”
Jefferson echoed his coach’s message.
“It’s just one game,” the veteran big man said. “This team is just too smart and too intelligent to just not learn from the mistakes that we made.”