Determined to make sure his team is not overconfident after a 32-point win in Game 1 of its first-round playoff series on Sunday, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra came armed with ammunition on Monday, pointing out the Charlotte Hornets’ success this season in games following blowouts.
“Every time they’ve had a double-digit loss this year, they’ve come back to win,” Spoelstra said. “That’s for a reason. They’re well coached. They have gritty, tough players.”
Well, actually, the Hornets haven’t done it every time, but more often that not. Charlotte was 11-6 this season in games immediately following double-digit losses. Four of those wins came against playoff teams Toronto, Memphis, Indiana and Boston.
What’s more, since Jan. 30, Charlotte has won five in a row — by an average of 15 points per game — after double-digit losses.
“The biggest adjustment they’re going to make,” Heat forward Luol Deng said, “is they’re going to play a lot harder than they did.”
REST FOR DRAGIC
Point guard Goran Dragic said the combination of running an offense, trying to play at an up-tempo pace when the opportunity arises and being pinballed on screens while trying to defend explosive Kemba Walker can be exhausting.
Spoelstra said he gave Dragic “a mental day” break from practice Monday, allowing him to get “ice baths” and observe.
“They’re going to screen. They’re going to hit you, try to get their guys open,” Spoelstra said. “… [Dragic] is a conscientious, determined defender. He’s embraced how we do things.”
Walker scored 19 points, two below his regular-season average, but had just one assist and two turnovers. Dragic scored only nine points but played a great floor game (10 assists, one turnover).
Though Dragic said he was fueled by energy and adrenaline, he admits this series is challenging “especially when you’re defending such a quick guy [in Walker]. You try to save energy on offense. It’s tough.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ The Heat was whistled for 24 fouls in Game 1, easily topping its 18.3 average this season (fourth-fewest in the league). Only two Heat opponents shot more free throws against the Heat this season than Charlotte’s 37 on Sunday.
“I think we came out with so much aggression,” Spoelstra said. “It’s unlike us. For the most part this season, we’ve had habits of not fouling.”
▪ With Deng making 11 of 13 shots in Game 1 and Whiteside hitting 9 for 11, they became just the second pair of teammates in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55) to shoot better than 80 percent while attempting at least 10 field goals in a playoff game, according to Elias.
The first also did it for the Heat: Shaquille O’Neal (12 for 14) and Jason Williams (10 for 12) in Game 6 of the 2006 Eastern Conference finals against Detroit.
Also, Deng’s 84.6 percent shooting was the second-highest in Heat playoff history, behind O’Neal aforementioned game.
▪ Dorell Wright, who scored eight points in four minutes to end Game 1
in his first Heat appearance since April 2010, is already “very
immersed in the Heat’s system,” Spoelstra said.
“He’s spending a lot of time in pre-practice and working to fast-track. The most important thing is he’s a Heat guy. So his work ethic, he’s the first one here. That speaks volumes to everybody else. I think what you saw even in those minutes when the game was out of reach, that he has veteran experience and a definable skill that you can throw out there. That won’t ever change. He can shoot the ball.”
Wright, referencing the old sitcom Married with Children, cracked
after Game 1: “I have a new nickname for myself. It’s Al Bundy. I’m
straight off the couch.”