Buzz City baby! Hornets cool Heat to take series lead
By Tim Reynolds
AP Basketball Writer
MIAMI (AP) — Courtney Lee was steaming after missing a layup that would have given Charlotte the lead heading into the final minute.
His anger didn’t last long.
Miami’s will last for a while.
Lee’s 3-pointer with 25.2 seconds left — just his second make in nine tries from the floor — put the Hornets ahead to stay, and Charlotte beat the Heat 90-88 in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference first-round series Wednesday night.
The Hornets have won three straight in the series to take a 3-2 lead into a potential Game 6 clincher on Friday night.
“I felt I couldn’t make a shot,” Lee said, “but the biggest one went in.”
Miami thought Dwyane Wade was fouled after he got the rebound of a miss by Goran Dragic with 2.6 seconds left, and the Heat believed Luol Deng fouled Cody Zeller in an effort to send him to the line as time was running out.
Neither call came, and the Heat are on the brink of elimination.
“Look, it never is decided by those plays, but from my vantage point Dwyane certainly looked like he got fouled,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. Asked if he had seen a replay, Spoelstra said, “I don’t need to. He got fouled.”
Wade was even more succinct.
“There’s no reason for me to look at it,” Wade said. “It ain’t going to change anything. I thought I did. It wasn’t called.”
Marvin Williams led the Hornets with 17 points, while Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker each had 14 for Charlotte — which got its first road playoff win in 14 years. Jeremy Lin added 11.
“We’ve got to play with that same edge, that same mentality,” Williams said.
Wade scored 25 for Miami, while Deng had 15, Joe Johnson added 13 and Hassan Whiteside finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Lee missed a layup with about a minute left, arguing it should have been a goaltending call against Wade. The Heat came up empty on the ensuing possession, rookie Josh Richardson trying a 30-footer with about 3 seconds left on the shot clock that was an airball, and Lee got an offensive rebound and eventually hit the 3 on Charlotte’s next trip.
Lee also got a key offensive rebound late in Charlotte’s Game 4 win.
“The biggest offensive rebounds of both games,” Spoelstra said.
That capped the scoring, as Miami left stunned. The night’s final inbounds pass went to Zeller with about 2 seconds left, and time expired with no foul called.
“I don’t know if Cody got fouled or not,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said, “but it works for me.”
Miami started the game by running out to a 14-6 lead, before the Hornets answered with a 14-0 run — featuring four 3-pointers from four different players. The Hornets led by 12 midway through the second half, before Wade got going.
He scored 10 of his 14 first-half points in the final 5:49 before intermission, sparking a 17-7 Miami burst to get within 49-47. Everything in his bag of tricks was working; in that stretch alone he hit a short bank shot, a midrange jumper, a layup, a finger roll off a Eurostep move, and a dunk in traffic.
Charlotte shot just 26 percent in the third, and Miami — becoming the first team to engineer a second-half lead change in the series — got the lead out to 71-65 going into the fourth. But Miami went cold, shooting 32 percent the rest of the way.
“Welcome to the playoffs,” Spoelstra said. “The playoffs just started now.”
Hornets: Williams was 1 for 17 in the first two games of the series at Miami. He made two shots in the first 4:53 of Game 5. … Nic Batum (left foot) returned after a two-game absence, coming off the bench and finished with eight points in 26 minutes. … Charlotte is now just 9-25 all-time in playoff road games.
Heat: Miami’s home winning streak ended at eight. … Miami activated G Tyler Johnson, who hasn’t played since late January while recovering from shoulder surgery and didn’t get into Game 5 either. Briante Weber took his spot on the inactive list, alongside Chris Bosh (blood clots).
It’s the first time Charlotte has led a series since winning in the first round against Orlando in 2002, taking that best-of-five 3-1. It’s the first lead in a best-of-seven for the Hornets since a 3-2 edge against Milwaukee in the 2001 Eastern Conference semifinals, a series the Bucks would rally to win in seven games.
Miami is 7-7 in the Wade era when facing elimination, and he knows the mission facing the Heat now is simple. “Figure out a way to get a win. It gets no tougher than that in the playoffs,” Wade said.