• Charlotte Hornets at Miami HEAT Game 7 Thread and Preview

    Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon The Miami HEAT host the Charlotte Hornets Sunday afternoon at AmericanAirlines Arena in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round. The HEAT defeated the Hornets 97-90 in Game 6, which evened the series 3-3. Tip-off is set for 1:00 PM and television coverage is on ABC. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket. 1: What’s one thing the HEAT did exceptionally well to save their season in Charlotte? Couper Moorhead: This is the simplest point we could make, but the HEAT simply made shots. They shot 60 percent in the first half, including 4-of-5 from downtown, and in the final minutes they got a dose of the spectacular from Dwyane Wade as he hit his first two threes since last December. There was of course dozens of small energy plays, including some timely charges taken, that put Miami in position to benefit from Wade’s late shots, but making shots is really the only counter to Charlotte’s extreme paint-packing tactics. Joe Beguiristain: They corrected their mistakes from Games 4 and 5 and executed down the stretch. In particular, Dwyane Wade answered the call and did what he’s always done throughout his illustrious career. By now you may have heard that Wade led the charge in the fourth quarter with 10 points, two blocks and a steal to force a Game 7. Otherwise, Miami competed hard through the first three quarters and weathered a few early storms on the road. While Kemba Walker again had a fantastic night (37 points and five assists), the HEAT held everyone else to a combined 39.1 percent shooting. Luol Deng, Udonis Haslem and Justise Winslow came up big on the defensive end and made nothing come easy for Charlotte. It will take that kind of collective effort one more time to come away victorious on Sunday afternoon. 2: Will Miami be able to win Game 7 in the same fashion of Game 6? Couper: They’ll have to, in terms of making the relatively open jumpers that Charlotte has been conceding. But chances are they won’t be able to count on Wade making threes down the stretch – at least not as long as the Hornets are playing such stout individual defense. Nor will they be able to count on getting Hassan Whiteside a ton of touches near the rim with so many bodies swarming him on every roll. The good news is that Goran Dragic went on a run of his own in the third quarter and kept Miami’s offense scoring just enough to hold on to a small lead. Miami has been able to get out in transition more often over the past two games – something that could help them break open a quarter on Sunday – but seeing Dragic score in the half-court should be very encouraging moving forward. As for everything else, it should go without saying that the HEAT have to play with the same energy and attention to detail in Game 7. We can talk tactics and strategy all night, but the series is going to go to the more competitive team. Joe: It’ll certainly be tough, but that comes with the territory of Game 7. Wade has now had two great performances in a row, so we’ll see if he can continue his hot streak. That said, Miami has guys who can certainly help Wade shoulder the scoring load. Deng has been lights out from downtown in this series (51.4 percent), while Goran Dragic seemed to re-gain his stride in the second half of Game 6. Deng is making the most of his opportunities and taking what the Hornets are giving him. Dragic, meanwhile, got to the cup and hit some of his usual mid-range jumpers off screens his last time out. The Slovenian’s potential resurgence could swing the series in the HEAT’s favor. Still, it will likely come down to the defensive end for Miami. If the team can continue to limit Charlotte from distance, things should be fine. 3: Is there anything left for either team to change? How could Josh Richardson’s status affect things? Couper: You might see a couple tweaks here and there – the HEAT sent a little extra help towards Kemba Walker in pick-and-roll after he was clearly rolling – but the schemes aren’t going to change much unless there some sudden loss of faith on either side. That said, Josh Richardson’s availability could force Erik Spoelstra to change. Richardson has been Miami primary defensive weapon against Walker while still being a capable floor-spacer. If Richardson’s shoulder injury keeps him out then the HEAT have to explore other solutions – which could include heavier minutes for Justise Winslow. And remember, Nicolas Batum is listed as questionable. Miami may be down a key defender, but Charlotte could be without one of its best playmakers. Joe: At this point, I don’t believe there is much to change for either team. It’s simply about who wants it more. Other than the first three games of this series, we’ve had some extremely close contests that have gone down to the wire. It’s in those moments where you trust your instincts and simply stick to what works. However, there are some injuries that can have an impact in Game 7. Both Josh Richardson and Nicolas Batum are listed as questionable for Sunday. Richardson suffered a left shoulder strain in Game 6, while Batum didn’t play in the second half due to problems with his strained left foot. If Richardson can’t go, that might pave the way for a Tyler Johnson return. If Batum sits, the Hornets will be missing a key component, but the team has adapted well without him.   Highlights: Game 6 Game 5 Game Notes: Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem are 4-2 all-time in Game 7’s. Wade leads the HEAT in points (20.2), assists (5.7) and steals (0.7) per game this postseason. Kemba Walker leads the Hornets in points (25.0), assists (3.7), steals (1.3) and blocks (0.7) per contest in the playoffs. Josh Richardson (left shoulder strain) is listed as questionable. 

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