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Hornets swarm Heat, 96-80

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The Charlotte Hornets put on a second half blitz to claim a 96-80 victory over the Miami Heat in their NBA Eastern Conference first round playoff series on Saturday. The win reduced the Heat’s lead in the series to 2-1. It was Charlotte’s first playoff victory in 14 years.

After shooting 58 percent in both of the first two games played at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, the Heat were only able to connect on 34 percent of their tries. The Hornets only shot 39 percent, but Miami went ice cold in the third quarter.

With the score tied at 53-53, the Hornets closed the third period on a 22-5 run to take a 75-58 lead into the fourth quarter. Charlotte did not let up.

“You have to give them credit because they came out with great energy during that spurt,” said Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra. “

A layup by Courtney Lee with 9:18 left in the game extended the lead to 86-63. Although the Hornets would score only 10 points the rest of the game, Miami still could not find the range. The final score is as close as Miami got the rest of the game.

Dwyane Wade was visibly frustrated at his inability to get foul calls and was often barking at the officials. Wade, one of the NBA’s best at getting to the foul line, shot only three free throws the entire game.

But that is not why Miami was swarmed by the Hornets. While the starters played fairly even, Charlotte’s bench outscored Miami’s 32-13.

“This isn’t about winning one playoff game, it’s about winning a playoff series,” said Hornets Coach Steve Clifford. “This gives us a chance.”

Jeremy Lin led Charlotte in scoring with 18 points and Cody Zeller added 12 points. After being blanked in Game 2, Marvin Williams scored 12 points and added 14 rebounds for Charlotte.

Luol Deng continued his hot shooting for the Heat, scoring 19 points, making five of six shots from behind the three point arc. Wade had 17 points but suffered through a seven for 20 shooting night.

Miami has a day to put this behind them and try to win one in Charlotte. Game 4 is Monday night before the series shifts back to Miami for Game 5 on Wednesday.

 

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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