Buzzing in Charlotte for its second In-Season Tournament game in Group Play, the Heat overcame a porous defensive start to hold off the Hornets, winning six in a row behind Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo’s dominion.
In the first quarter, the Hornets stung the Heat on half its attempts and drew three fouls in three minutes on Kyle Lowry that benched him until the next half. Pick-up points to take away the 3-point shot weren’t set for Miami, resulting in PJ Washington lighting them up for a dozen.
But Butler was assertive early, attacking drop and single coverage for 11 points on five of six tries. Duncan Robinson was still burning from the weekend’s back-to-back wins and nailed two 3-pointers when his cover was caught ball-watching. And the defensive firm Adebayo and Haywood Highsmith forced LaMelo Ball into six misses at short and long range.
The Heat installed its 2-2-1 press to slow down the ball in the second quarter, and Highsmith stole it in Charlotte’s territory for a pick-6. He took over the game with 10 points, a block on Théo Maledon at the elbow and two more takeaways, reaching in when Ball spun past him and poked it loose when Ish Smith dribbled by.
Adebayo faced-up Nick Richards in the post for a quick drive-by and slammed the rock over Smith. Butler set up Highsmith in the corner and Thomas Bryant below the rim, plus buried a near half-court shot to end the half.
At intermission, the Heat was ahead 57-48, with 14 points scored off turnovers and 26 in the lane. Taking care of the ball had allowed Miami four extra cracks at the goal.
In the third quarter, the visitors registered 30 points on 56.3% shooting without a 3-pointer. Butler earned multiple charity line trips after getting fouled on rim attacks. Adebayo danced into the paint for two fadeaways and a layup in pick and roll assisted by Robinson.
But the Heat’s arc protection collapsed in man coverage and the 2-3 zone, allowing five of nine trays to fall. Washington also supplied six more points for Charlotte off a putback, a driving hook when beating Butler off the dribble and a layup from a baseline curl.
The Heat was up seven points to start the fourth but tallied its first four of 13 baskets. Trying to capitalize, Washington scored eight, and Ball added nine more to his scorecard on 37.5% shooting but committed three ruinous turnovers.
Butler got to the line a few more times. Adebayo supplied four more points. But Jaime Jaquez Jr., bailed out his teammates with baskets on the break, baseline and from deep.
Miami won 111-105. The only Heatles to play all of the fourth quarter were Adebayo, Jaquez and Josh Richardson.
Butler finished with 32 points, making 71.4% of his field goals, with five assists and four rebounds. And Adebayo had 21 on half of his shots, plus 11 rebounds.
JJJ was tasked with the Bally Sports TV inquiry on the court. He said his first perfect road trip with the team felt “pretty good” and that he’s looking forward to getting back to Miami. When asked about the defense, he said, “We’re all just bought into the defensive end of the floor, trying to do what we can to get stops. It gives a lot of fuel to our offense going the other way.”
At the press conference, coach Erik Spoelstra said he rolled with Jaquez in the fourth quarter because of his grit and mental/emotional stability. “He’s learning things, he typically doesn’t make the same mistake twice…He’s earned the trust of the staff, but more importantly, he’s earned the trust of his teammates. They feel comfortable with him out there, and he knows how to fit in. Defensively, he can do a lot of different things, which fits into our system.”