The encore could be a pretty good one between the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat.
The teams will meet Saturday for the second time in three nights on the same court at Miami.
The Hornets have lost seven games in a row, with Thursday night’s 117-112 overtime outcome among the most difficult to digest.
“We get a couple breaks, things go our way a little bit differently in overtime, it would have been a really good win” coach Steve Clifford said. “But it says everything about the character of our team.”
Charlotte battled back from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit, but the Heat recovered as Jimmy Butler racked up 35 points, including their last seven in regulation. Miami has won five games this season, with four of them ending with margins of seven points or less.
“I think this was important to us,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You have to go through the emotions and then go figure it out. Then have to mentally reset and emotionally reset to play five more minutes. I felt like it was an important win for us mentally and emotionally.”
Butler was aggressive enough to land at the free-throw line for 15 attempts, making 13.
After the Heat’s lead disappeared, Miami was forced to execute while facing a deficit. Butler had help, and it proved to be vital.
“That is how we are built,” Spoelstra said. “I think we’re starting to understand what our identity needs to be at both ends of the court. … The best way to do it is to build on these games and then you have something to review on film and have something to start to work on.”
Spoelstra said traits of Clifford-coached teams mean there are bound to be close games and certain challenges. This comes even with the Hornets playing minus key players because of injuries.
“We’ve experienced these games over the years,” Spoelstra said. “They’re going to find a way to grind back in it.”
The Hornets, in the middle game of a three-game swing in Florida, haven’t been clicking down the stretch in many games. So outscoring the Heat 31-19 in the fourth quarter might be a huge step despite the ultimate defeat.
“That’s something we can build on,” Clifford said. “I think this says everything about our team.”
Yet turnovers were devastating for the Hornets. Miami feasts on defensive opportunities and Charlotte’s adjustments are expected as the teams meet again in quick order.
“They’ve been doing it all year,” Clifford said of the Heat’s takeaways. “They’re quick, very aggressive with their hands. They’re good in the passing lanes. It’s something we’ll have to do better with on Saturday.”
“It’s part of our identity that we really want to be disruptive and get teams out of their comfort zone. It requires a big energy and a focused commitment to be active and get hands on balls. That’s our lifeblood defensively.”
It could be just the launching point for what the Heat can do on defense.
“We’re nowhere near where we want to be or where we’ll end up defensively,” Spoelstra said. “We’re starting to get there.”
With all the backcourt injuries for the Hornets, Kelly Oubre Jr. has continued to be productive in a heightened role. His 29 points and seven 3-point baskets were season highs Thursday night.
–Field Level Media