Charlotte Hornets guard Courtney Lee is attracted to big moments on the basketball court. Thursday night’s game five against the Miami Heat was no exception.
There was nobody between Lee and the basket with one minute to play as he attempted a layup that would give his Charlotte Hornets a late one-point lead over Miami.
“I had that layup,” Lee said. “It was a close call…nobody really said anything about it. It was just play on, next play.”
The ball found Lee again on the Hornets’ next offensive possession, and this time, he came through.
Lee sprinted in from the right corner to secure an offensive rebound, worked a quick give-and-go with Jeremy Lin, and then drained the game-winning three-pointer from the top of the key to give the Hornets a 90-88 victory over the Heat.
“If I had to draw it up, I’ll take shooting one-for-eight before I knock down a big shot any day,” Lee said after the game.
He finished the night two-for-nine from the field, making his first shot and his last.
“They made big shots going down the stretch,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Hornets after the game. “Courtney Lee just made two, three big winning plays the last two games.”
Lee, who also secured two crucial offensive rebounds at the end of game four, lifted the Hornets after a tough shooting night for Kemba Walker. Walker made only four of his 18 shots, and his last miss set the stage for Lee’s offensive rebound and three-pointer.
“For him to come back and make that huge shot, that was incredible,” Walker said of Lee. “I told him that it was going to drop tonight for him, and it did.”
The Hornets acquired Lee in a mid-season trade with Memphis. He previously appeared in the Western Conference Finals with the Grizzlies, as well as the NBA Finals with the Orlando Magic during his rookie season. Lee has been traded five times during his eight-year NBA career, but he said the transition from Memphis to Charlotte was easier than others.
“I played for Coach [Steve] Clifford eight years ago,” Lee explained before game five.
Clifford was an assistant coach for the Magic when Lee first entered the league.
“We built that relationship and we have an understanding of what he wants from me…he’s a guy that I can communicate on and off the court with.”
“He’s played in a lot of big games,” Clifford said of Lee. “He’s very poised, very confident, very on top of things.”
In the game’s biggest moment, the ball again found Courtney Lee. Lee delivered, and his team finds itself one win away from a first round series victory.
“We have a great opportunity in front of us,” Walker said. “We just want to be able to finish.”
Hornets forward Nicolas Batum returned to the lineup after missing games three and four with a left foot strain. Batum played 25 minutes and made two three-pointers in the fourth quarter.
“His presence on the floor makes our offense so much more fluid,” Clifford said of Batum. Clifford added that Batum “was shot” at the end of the game, and that he expects Batum to play his regular minutes in game six.
Clifford also said that Cody Zeller has been dealing with a knee injury. Zeller went back to the locker room during the second quarter, but returned to the game and ended up playing 21 minutes.
“You can see his limping a little bit,” Clifford said of Zeller. “He is playing through it and getting a lot of treatment between games.” Zeller is also expected to play in game six.