A playoff run that began with so much dominance and promise for the Miami Heat is on the doorstep of coming to an end.
The Charlotte Hornets — the only team to beat the Heat at home since the calendar turned to March — did it again Wednesday night, rallying in the fourth quarter of Game 5 to upend Miami 90-88 and take a 3-2 series lead.
Now, the Heat, which has lost three consecutive games on the road and is 7-10 away from Miami since the All-Star break, has to win Game 6 on Friday night in Charlotte to avoid elimination.
“Everybody in the locker room should be pissed off,” said Dwyane Wade, who led Miami with 25 points and had the ball in his hands on the Heat’s final two offensive possessions but couldn’t shake the Hornets defense for a clean shot at the basket.
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“[Thursday] is the day we come in, learn from our mistakes and get ready for Game 6. Being frustrated going into Game 6 does you no good. But [Wednesday night], my wife has to deal with me [Wednesday night]. I’m going to be pissed off until I go to sleep.”
Courtney Lee, the hero for the Hornets in Game 4, stuck the dagger into the Heat again. He grabbed another big offensive rebound late and then drilled the go-ahead three-point shot with 25.2 seconds left. Lee was 1 of 8 from the field before he made the winning shot.
“That was an emotional roller-coaster, man,” said Lee, who missed a fastbreak layup with a little over a minute left and thought Wade should have been called for goaltending on the play.
“I just wanted to help my team anyway I can. I crashed the glass, grabbed the offensive rebound, and Jeremy [Lin] passed the ball back to me. I was open, and I let it fly. If I had to draw it up I’ll take 1 for 8 before I knock down a big shot any day.”
Miami had one final possession after that, which ended in disaster. Wade drove toward the paint, but after being deterred by the Hornets he passed it out to Goran Dragic for a three-point shot from the corner. The shot was partially deflected by Kemba Walker. Wade grabbed the ball in midair and attacked the basket. But he lost the ball as he went up in a crowd of Hornets.
Wade pleaded with officials for a foul call, but to no avail.
“I don’t need to see [the replay],” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Dwyane got fouled.”
Said Wade: “It’s pointless now. There’s no reason for me to look at it. It ain’t going to change anything. I thought I did [get fouled]. It wasn’t called.”
The Heat was called for 16 fouls — two more than the Hornets — but it was a drastic improvement compared to the 23 it averaged through the first four games of the series.
Hassan Whiteside, who had complained about the officiating after Game 4, finished with 11 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots for the Heat. After the game his right hand was bandaged up. He said X-rays were negative.
Charlotte shot just 39.3 percent but finished 12 of 24 from three-point range.
The Heat had done a phenomenal job over the first four games of the series slowing down one of the better three-point shooting teams in the league. But when it mattered Wednesday the Hornets made them — especially in the fourth quarter.
Miami finished with 48 points in the paint and 13 fastbreak points — improvements the Heat wanted to make after struggling in both areas in Charlotte.
Still, the Hornets beat the Heat for a third consecutive time. The Heat has never lost a series when going up 2-0.
“They came in here and stole one, and now we’re going to go out there and steal one in their home court,” Whiteside said. “There isn’t any reason to be down right now. I’ve seen worse in my life. Guys are disappointed that we lost, but it’s not over.”