The Heat are coming off of a tough home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night, which saw Miami drop to 7-13 at American Airlines Arena. The Heat cut the score to 84-82 late in the fourth quarter before a 7-0 Thunder run with under three minutes remaining put Miami away for good.
The loss marked yet another third quarter collapse as the Heat led by as many as nine in the first half before entering halftime with a 50-49 lead. Miami was outscored by Oklahoma City, 23-17, in the third quarter.
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh both had quiet games, as Wade scored 18 points in his return from a hamstring injury while Bosh posted 16 points. Only one other player—Hassan Whiteside—scored in double figures for the Heat.
Unfortunately for Miami, Whiteside left Tuesday’s game after just 11 minutes played due to a sprained right ankle. The 7-foot center scored 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting before exiting the game. Whiteside will not travel to Charlotte for Wednesday night’s game versus the Hornets.
The real issue for the Heat were turnovers—21 total in comparison to OKC’s 11, which resulted in the Thunder jacking up 92 shots, while the Heat were able to muster up just 68 attempts.
Erik Spoelstra lamented that the Heat’s defensive effort was wasted due to turnovers:
“To leave a real competitive defensive game like that on the table is pretty disappointing.”
Bosh followed up with his own remarks on the Heat’s issues with turnovers:
“We weren’t loose with the ball, but we weren’t taking care of the ball.”
The Hornets on the other hand are riding high on momentum—in the month of January they’ve gone 7-2, including a five-game winning streak that included a victory over the Toronto Raptors, who have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Due to their hot stretch, the Hornets stand just a game-and-a-half behind the Heat for the seventh seed in the East.
Charlotte’s latest victory came against the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 105-80 thrashing. Al Jefferson scored eight points and pulled down five rebounds after missing the previous nine games due to a groin injury. Gerald Henderson added 17 points as the Hornets led by as many as 30 points by the end of the third quarter versus Minnesota.
Jefferson came off of the bench for the first time in over eight years in the victory, but he felt good in his return:
“Before I started starting all of the time, coming off the bench was fun because you get a chance to see how the game was going and because you’re playing against the backup center instead of the starting center. So I looked at it like that. It was fun.”
The Heat have faced off with the Hornets two prior times already this season, splitting the series 1-1 so far. Charlotte defeated Miami 96-89 in the first meeting on November 5 at Time Warner Cable Arena. Meanwhile, the Heat beat the Hornets 94-93 off of Bosh’s game-winning shot with 31 seconds remaining on November 23 at the AAA.
In two meetings versus the Hornets, Bosh has averaged 21.5 points and 11.5 rebounds. Wade missed the last contest, but in the first meeting versus Charlotte he scored 25 points and dished out seven assists on 9-of-18 shooting.
At least one of these two teams will likely clinch one of the last spots in the Eastern Conference playoffs. With both clubs at the halfway point of the NBA season, it makes this game even more important for the Heat to win if they hope to hold off the Hornets for a berth in the 2015 NBA Playoffs.
Tipoff is set for 7:00 pm E/T and the game will be broadcast on Sun Sports.