After the last game’s poor performance, Duncan got things started for Miami with a three, getting things off in the right direction. It was Duncan and Caleb who led the offense to start. Noticeable early, was Miami’s struggles to rebound on the offensive end as well as guard the key on the other end with Charlotte getting most of its scores at the rim. Still, it wasn’t often and the Heat was able to put together a quick lead on a 12-2 run. On the flip side of Charlotte’s ability to score inside, was its inability to score from beyond the arc – the Hornets didn’t sink a three until the 3-minute mark of the first. The Heat got some great contributions from the second unit with Jaquez Jr. and Kevin Love, but it was Jimmy who would anchor the offense with his signature blue-collar buckets.
One thing that’s been noticeable as of late is the chemistry between Kevin Love and Jimmy Butler – the two paired together create many a headache for opposing defenses.
Miami let Charlotte come back reducing its lead to just five to start the second quarter. Suddenly Charlotte was prolific from beyond the arc going on a run to tie things up on a 9-0 run. With Miami reeling, Thomas Bryant saw minutes with a hope that he’d grab some offensive rebounds – probably. Duncan, Jaime, and Caleb all worked to get the Heat back out ahead by nine.
The Hornets fought back getting to within five once again, but with Miami sharing the ball well and Jaime Jaquez Jr. putting on a preview of February’s dunk contest, KLove hitting multiple threes, and Caleb Martin slamming it down to end the half Miami would take a nine-point lead into the second half. With Miami dominating half-court play (in terms of points/play) it would go into the second half with momentum.
Jimmy and Duncan extended the lead to start the second half, but Terry Rozier and Charlotte returned fire on the other end to keep things within striking distance. With Charlotte appearing to gain momentum, Jimmy went to work offensively getting to the line and extending the lead. Duncan also delivered from three to stay up double digits. Lowry was scoreless early in the third quarter but was still proficient in orchestrating the offense and finding open men. With Jimmy in a flow state, he’d continue to attack the bucket and earn trips to the line. It helped that Love’s shooting touch was on full display, showcasing what an asset he can be for this team when his looks are falling. Headed into the fourth Miami was firmly in control, but Rozier’s hot shooting threatened a Charlotte run – that being said a well-timed three by Duncan and a good bucket by Love kept the Heat ahead by 12 headed into the fourth.
Miles Bridges continued to score well, and chip at Miami’s lead to open the fourth. Miami’s offense stalled to start the fourth which was ill-timed with Charlotte cutting the lead to five. The Heat was once again on its heels in the fourth, treading water after working diligently to build a lead. With Rozier hitting threes, Brandon Miller scoring, and the Heat struggling to create offense things were extremely disorganized. Why the Heat continues to lose its identity in the fourth is still a mystery, but it’s one that needed to be solved quickly with Charlotte cutting the lead to one. Miami’s answer was to bring in Jimmy Butler and Kevin Love who provided instant offense. Charlotte continued its offensive assault with Hayward and Rozier both getting involved, but with Kyle showing up at the perfect time and Duncan hitting some big looks Miami stayed ahead – just barely. Despite Charlotte making things extraordinarily difficult it was Jimmy Butler, Kevin Love, and Caleb Martin who’d put Miami in a good position to take it home.
The ending of this game turned into a chess match played out in free throws, but missed free throws by Rozier and smart clock control allowed Miami to escape Charlotte with a much-needed win in a game that had no right being so close.