Miami Heat

Miami Heat has trouble with Charlotte Hornets’ bigger lineup

The Charlotte Hornets' Al Jefferson (25) works against the Miami Heat's Hassan Whiteside in the first half during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday, April 23, 2016.
The Charlotte Hornets' Al Jefferson (25) works against the Miami Heat's Hassan Whiteside in the first half during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday, April 23, 2016. TNS

Hornets coach Steve Clifford decided to go with size over speed with his starting lineup for Game 3 — and it caused problems for the Heat.

With starting swingman Nicolas Batum (sprained left ankle) out, Clifford shifted power forward Marvin Williams to small forward, inserted rookie Frank Kaminsky at power forward and had Al Jefferson at center.

The group had played just three minutes together all season prior to Saturday. But they were effective in keeping Miami from scoring in the paint.

“When Courtney Lee [was acquired in a trade with Memphis], Al was just coming back from his injury,” Clifford explained before the game as to why the unit didn’t play more together during the regular season. “Just looking at it, you have to try to find a balance of groups offensively and defensively that you can put together for 48 minutes.

“The other thing is watching the film their size has been a problem for us — their perimeter size. A lot of their [success] zipping the ball on the perimeter inside is the fact they’re so big. Hopefully, being bigger, we can deal better with that stuff.”

▪ Heat fans haven’t forgotten about the on-court rivalry between Alonzo Mourning and Patrick Ewing. From 1997 to 2000, the Heat and Knicks met in either the first or second round of the playoffs and waged fierce battles that always went the distance to a winner-take-all final game. Mourning and Ewing were at the center of those classic postseason tussles.

On Thursday, SI Films released a 33-minute documentary entitled Patrick & Zo, a unique look at the kinship and rivalry shared by the former Georgetown stars and Hall of Famers. In it, we get to see Mourning and Ewing interact in ways we really hadn’t before.

“What’s very clear is that there’s a deep fondness and admiration and real friendship between those two guys,” director Jon Weinbach said.

Ewing, 53, is the associate head coach of the Hornets, and Mourning, 46, is the vice president for player programs with the Heat. Weinbach said when Ewing and Mourning got together to film their joint segment, they looked over photos and shared war stories.

“What was cool was seeing them interact in person,” Weinbach said. “Alonzo on his own he can be intimidating. He likes to sort of test people. He’s always dressed impeccably. He’s always physically intimidating. He’s always so put together. He tries to put on that tough, combative shield.

“But then when Patrick is in the room, it really changes. Zo’s voice changes. He becomes more gregarious and funnier. And he likes to make fun of Patrick. I didn’t realize how thick of a Jamaican accent [Patrick] still has. His friend that came with him to the interviews made the accent emerge even more. And Alonzo made fun of him the whole time. It was great.”

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