Hornets break through while cooling off Heat

Sat Apr 23, 2016 10:29pm EDT
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(The Sports Xchange) - After dismal performances in two opening losses, the Charlotte Hornets knew they needed to regroup quickly in their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series against the Miami Heat.

The Hornets did precisely that on Saturday, and the result was a 96-80 Game 3 victory that puts them in position to even the best-of-seven series in Game 4 on Monday.

The Hornets went on an 18-0 run midway through the third quarter, holding the Heat scoreless for a span of 6:37, and then they went on to lead by as many as 24 in the fourth.

It was a complete reversal from the Heat's 106-80 win in Game 1 and a 115-103 win in Game 2, both in Miami.

"Our intensity, our defense, our communication was so much better," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "So it's a good win and if we can come back and play better in some areas Monday night, it'll give us a chance to tie the series."

The Hornets clearly benefited from a return home to Time Warner Cable Arena, where they went 30-11 during the regular season.

They were crisp offensively, committing only four turnovers, and they came through with a brilliant defensive effort in limiting the Heat to 34.2 percent shooting from the field.

"The thing tonight was, we were more intense, we were more disciplined, and our defense was a ton better," Clifford said. "I mean, we had two of our five worst deflection games all season in Miami and that all changed tonight. We played a lot harder. We played a lot smarter. We were a lot more organized."

Jeremy Lin led a balanced attack with 18 points, as six players scored in double figures. The Hornets also got 17 points from Kemba Walker, 15 points from Frank Kaminsky, 12 points from Cody Zeller, 12 points and 14 rebounds from Marvin Williams, and 10 points from Al Jefferson.   Continued...

Apr 23, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward Marvin Williams (2) reacts after scoring during the second half in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat at Time Warner Cable Arena. Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports