For one quarter at least, the Heat’s defensive woes disappeared. One good quarter is all it takes to take down the Hornets.
After allowing more than 30 points in the first quarter, the Heat held New Orleans to half that number in the second period and cruised to a 106-90 victory. It was the Heat’s first win in three games after back-to-back defeats to the Wizards and Knicks. The Heat is 9-1 at home.
Miami (13-5) blew the game open with a 25-4 run in the second quarter and outscored the Hornets 33-15 in the period.
After five points in a row by Jason Smith gave New Orleans (5-14) a six-point lead to begin the second quarter, it would take the Hornets about six more minutes to manage its next two field goals.
A three-pointer by Ray Allen gave the Heat a 39-37 lead with 9:32 left in the period. It led for the remainder of the game.
The Heat shot 58 percent from the field, a season high, and 7 of 11 from three-point range while holding New Orleans to 44.9 percent shooting. Miami is 9-0 this season when shooting at least 50 percent from the field.
“It was a step in the right direction,” said LeBron James, who had 24 points in 36 minutes. “We needed to defend, we wanted to defend and we did that.”
A brutishly athletic three-point play by James put the Heat ahead by 10 points and a beautiful alley-oop from Wade to James capped a 20-2 run. From a difficult angle, Wade lofted a pass from midcourt over two Hornets defenders and found James in midair. James reached behind his body for the pass, turned and finished with a layup to give the Heat a 51-39 lead.
“We stayed with our principles and just kept hammering home what we need to do to get stops and our second unit came in and did a good job of giving us another burst defensively and we started to slow them down,” James said.
Udonis Haslem started at power forward to give the Heat a defensive edge, but it wasn’t until Joel Anthony entered the game when the defense began to click. New Orleans was 7 of 20 from the field in the second quarter after shooting 12 of 23 in the first quarter.
“He’s a big part of our defense,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Anthony. “He’s a game-changer in short minutes. We’ve been trying to figure out a way to break him into the rotation and found a way in the last two games.”
The Hornets were 4 of 5 from three-point range in first quarter but only attempted three in the second period. It helped that New Orleans forward Ryan Anderson only played 31 seconds in the period due to foul trouble.
Meanwhile, the Heat battered the Hornets inside the paint in second quarter and was 13 of 17 from the floor in the period.
James was 11 of 16 from the field and had seven assists and five rebounds despite a nasty spill in the second quarter.
“Anytime anyone ever goes down, I turn away and cringe,” Spoelstra said.
James sat out briefly to recover from a shot to the midsection but returned to offer AmericanAirlines Arena one of his more dazzling highlights of the season, a one-handed alley-oop.
Mario Chalmers led James a little too far with the lofted pass but James recovered in midair and surprised even himself with a ferocious dunk. He then turned to the crowd and roared, pausing momentarily with a little showmanship.
The Hornets cut the Heat’s lead to eight points in the fourth quarter, but Miami closed strong. Shane Battier’s three-pointer with 2:35 left gave the Heat a 101-87 lead.
Wade had 26 points, bouncing back from his poor game against the Knicks. He was 9 of 12 from the field and 8 of 9 from the free-throw line. Chris Bosh had 13 points and six rebounds. Allen and Battier each had 11 points off the bench.
Anderson led the Hornets with 24 points, going 10 of 19 from the field and 4 of 6 from three-point range.
“It was better activity tonight,” Spoelstra said. “You could see the motor. We still had some breakdowns but the effort was better.”