After scoring 123 points in game one and 115 points in game two, the Miami Heat offense came back to earth in Charlotte.
The Heat managed 80 points in game three and 85 in game four as the Hornets tied the series at two and set up Wednesday’s pivotal game five.
“It was an old-school eastern conference basketball game,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said of Monday’s game four. “It’s not always going to go to your identity…we thought we had a very good chance to win.”
Spoelstra said both the Heat and the Hornets have had to make adjustments throughout the series.
“We’ve kind of flipped the script,” Spoelstra said. “They’re playing a little bit more like we’ve played and we’re playing a little bit more like how they’ve played…Who can remain most true to who they’ve been all year long probably has the best chance.”
Miami received 46% of its offense off of points in the paint during the regular season, the fourth-most offense at the basket in the NBA. In the playoffs, that number has dipped to just below 40%.
On the other side, the Hornets got the second-fewest amount of offense in the paint during the regular season, scoring only 36% of their baskets inside. Through four playoff games, Charlotte has scored nearly 48% of their points in the paint, a major change in offensive strategy.
To combat Charlotte’s newfound desire to attack the basket, Spoelstra said he needs Heat center Hassan Whiteside to step up his game.
“He needs to play big minutes and be impactful,” Spoelstra said of his center, who is making his first career post-season appearance. “He’s one of the most dynamic bigs that I’ve ever been around…and you have a crafty, proven, experienced veteran post-up player that’s going to push him.”
Hornets coach Steve Clifford inserted Al Jefferson, the crafty veteran Spoelstra was referring to, into his starting lineup before game three. Jefferson gave Whiteside fits in the series’ second game, but the Heat center says he’s getting more comfortable against the Hornet big man.
“Every game, I learn something,” Whiteside said. “You pick up on guys’ tendencies and what they like to do.”
Whiteside was frustrated after game four and told reporters the playoffs should be re-named.
“This [is the] flop-offs,” Whiteside said. “I thought the playoffs were physical. This ain’t physical.”
“Everybody’s going to through periods of frustration,” Spoelstra said Tuesday. “You have to overcome a lot of things…emotions, officiating, competition…the only thing people care about is who wins the series and who moves on.”
Whiteside and the Heat are confident that they can bounce back Wednesday at home.
“At the end of the series,” Whiteside said, “they’ve got to win in South Beach.”