Hornets coach Steve Clifford felt pretty confident his team had “put a dent” into their defensive woes after Sunday’s 32-point loss to the Miami Heat in Game 1.
Clearly, he was wrong.
Three nights after scoring a franchise playoff-record 123 points and shooting 57.6 percent in a blowout win, the Heat made 30 of its first 40 shots, shot 57.9 percent for the game and took a commanding 2-0 lead in the series with a 115-103 victory over Charlotte at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“What we expected was a big response from them,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Our guys were able to be really aggressive, able to knock down some shots and the pace was better than it was in the first game. But I’ll tell you what — they brought it. As we move onto Charlotte, we can’t just bank down on our offense.”
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But so far, the Heat has been able to do exactly that.
For a team not known for its offense in the first half of the season, the Heat has turned into a scoring machine since the All-Star break. And it’s continued in the playoffs.
Five players finished in double figures for Miami. Dwyane Wade led the way with 28 points (11 of 21 field goals) and eight assists and Hassan Whiteside added 17 points (8 of 8 ) and 13 rebounds.
Goran Dragic had 18 points and was 3 for 3 from three-point range after a rough shooting night in Game 1. Luol Deng, the Heat’s hero in Game 1 with 31 points, had 16 points and six rebounds, and rookie Josh Richardson had 15 points off the bench.
“I felt we came out and played the game we needed to play,” Wade said.
Said Whiteside: “Everything was falling for me.”
After leading by 19 points following the first quarter of Game 1 on Sunday, Miami found itself tied at 29 Wednesday heading into the second quarter.
Then the Heat got hot — really hot.
Miami scored a franchise-record 43 points in the second quarter and missed only three of its 19 shots. The Heat led 72-60 at the half and eventually stretched the lead to as many as 18 points in the third quarter.
“Some things were better for us,” said Clifford, whose team finished 1 for 16 from three-point range and is now 7 for 33 from beyond the arc in the series. “The rebounding game was a lot better. We were still low turnover. Despite the fact we didn’t make threes, our offense still made enough plays to win.
“Tonight, they shot the ball really well from the perimeter. Even guys you wouldn’t mind taking shots made shots. And Wade was unbelievable. That was basically the game.”
The Hornets got 29 points from Kemba Walker (12 of 29 shooting) and 25 off the bench from Al Jefferson (12 of 17 shooting), but lost forward Nicolas Batum to a sprained left ankle with 10:43 left in the fourth quarter.
Clifford said afterward he was very concerned about Batum’s ankle.
“It looked bad when it happened and looking at his ankle now it’s pretty bad,” Jefferson said. “Me personally, I don’t think he’ll be able to come back. But he is a warrior and if he can work it out he’ll be fine.”
The Heat, which plays Game 3 in Charlotte on Saturday, has never lost a series when it has been ahead 2-0. Miami has won all 13 of its previous playoff series with a 2-0 lead and only three (1997 vs. Orlando; 2004 vs. New Orleans and 2012 vs. Boston) have gone the distance and reached a final deciding game.
But nobody in the Heat locker room was losing focus, Spoelstra said.
“A couple of our veterans spoke up in the locker room — Dwyane, [Luol Deng], [Udonis Haslem],” Spoelstra said. “They have been in these situations before. They can be precarious. You have to say on edge. That’s the toughest part. I said it before, I said it yesterday. I wish we could all just go to our caves and wait and quiet [the noise] and get ready for the next battle.”