The Miami Heat has never had a 2-0 lead in the playoffs and lost the series.
But Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lin and the Charlotte Hornets are making a push to be the first team to put an end to that perfect 13-0 run of team history.
Behind 34 points from Walker and 21 from Lin off the bench, the Hornets held on to beat the Heat 89-85 Monday night, sending the first round series back to Miami for Game 5 Wednesday knotted at two games each.
“We’ve had two bad quarters — a really bad one [third quarter] in Game 3 and one here,” said Dwyane Wade, who scored 12 points and had 10 assists in 33 minutes. “We were able to go on a 17-1 run, bring ourselves back and cut [the deficit] to within one [point]. But that pocket in the [second quarter] was just awful. It’s tough to overcome that on the road. These two [games] on the road that’s been our Achilles heel.
“As we said coming out of Miami, we were going to have to play different on the road to win games. We weren’t going to score 119 points. Today was one of those games where you believed we had done enough to be in position to win. We just didn’t make the final plays to do that.”
That big final play was failing to grab a late defensive rebound.
After Walker scored 11 consecutive points in the fourth quarter, he threw up a shot near half court to try and beat the shot clock with under six seconds to play.
It drew just enough of the rim and Courtney Lee pounced on the rebound, drawing a foul from Luol Deng in the process. Lee then went to the line and buried the game-clinching free throws with 4.6 seconds left.
The Heat, which has now lost three games in a row on the road going back to its season-ending loss in Boston, trailed by as many as 18 points early in the third quarter before fighting back to make a game of it.
Miami made most of its run with Wade, Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside on the bench.
Whiteside, who was playing with a bruised right thigh, had just eight points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes and was clearly frustrated by the Heat being called for 26 fouls.
Which one bugged him the most?
“Maybe [the one on the ground] or the Cody Zeller flop or maybe the one where I cutoff Kemba Walker to a spot and he threw his head back,” Whiteside said. “These are the flop-offs, man. I thought the playoffs were physical. This ain’t physical, man.”
Lin has been the sparkplug at drawing those fouls. As soon as he entered with 6:25 to go in the first quarter, Wade picked up two fouls within 15 seconds of guarding him.
“In the first half he was the one who kept us in the game and got us going,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “The way they’re playing [defense] if you can’t drive the ball you’re just going to take contested shots. [Lin’s] great strength is his ability to drive the ball and getting it into the paint.”
Joe Johnson led the Heat with 16 points and seven rebounds. But once again Miami couldn’t penetrate the Hornets in the paint (30 points) and shot just 39.5 percent for the game.
“We have to find a way to carry this defense on the road,” Clifford said. “Obviously they have us on our heels here offensively because the way they are playing is so differently for our team. We are usually good just kind of playing ball by NBA standards, moving the ball, setting pick-and-rolls. They are so disciplined and they are literally taking that away from us. We’re doing what we need to do. We’re playing aggressively and driving the ball. They are making us play differently than we’ve had to play for most of the year.”
Miami put together a good first quarter, making three of its first four three point shots in building an 11-point lead.
But after Amar’e Stoudemire muscled his way to the rim for a layup with 10:15 left in the half to put the Heat up 31-21, the tables quickly turned. Miami missed 11 consecutive shots and Charlotte went on a 15-1 run over the next five minutes to take the lead. The Heat missed 16 of its 19 field goal attempts in the period and the Hornets closed the quarter on a 12-4 run to take a 48-39 lead into the break.
Charlotte then opened the second half on a 9-0 run to take a commanding 57-39 lead. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called time out with 9:27 left in the period. That’s when the Heat woke up and answered Charlotte’s big run with a 17-1 run of its own. But that big Heat comeback wasn’t enough.
“Nobody said it was going to be easy,” Spoelstra said. “We just have to gather ourselves and get ready for a big game at home on Wednesday.”