PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference first round; Heat lead 1-0.
The key for the Miami Heat to get past the first round may be scoring in transition.
It will be tough for the New Orleans Hornets to chase them down on bad wheels.
The Heat hope to keep outrunning the hobbled Hornets for easy baskets as they try to leave home with a 2-0 lead in this first-round series.
New Orleans is the older, slower and bigger team, so Miami knew it should use its speed and fast-break opportunities to win the series.
Miami had an 18-0 advantage on fast-break points, and has outscored New Orleans 69-28 in transition this season to win four of the five meetings.
“For us to win this series, we’re going to have to be a running team,” Heat guard Eddie Jones said. “They’re too big and powerful inside for us to sit back and play a half-court game. We have to run.”
Just three of Miami’s top seven players are taller than 6-foot-7, and only Brian Grant and Udonis Haslem would be considered post players. Six of the nine Hornets who played 10 minutes in Game 1 are at least 6-8, and five are at least 33 years old. Only two players—Jones and Grant—on Miami’s entire roster are not in their 20s.
Among the Hornets’ elder statesmen are Davis and backup point guard Darrell Armstrong—both bothered by sprained ankles.
While Armstrong is doubtful for this game after going scoreless in 16 minutes Sunday, Davis said he will play despite aggravating the injury several times in Game 1.
“We kind of played into their hands,” Davis said. “If we can get back and not let them get on those runs where they’re getting out on the fast break, we have a lot of confidence in our half-court defense.”
All-Star center Jamaal Magloire also sat out practice Tuesday with knee tendinitis but is expected to play.
Another injury that has been a distraction to the Hornets is the one to Jamal Mashburn, who was left off the playoff roster due to a bruised knee. Mashburn, the Hornets’ leading scorer last season, was sent home Tuesday after complaining the team mishandled his medical care.
“This organization and the way things were done, I’ve been misdiagnosed a couple of times, and it has gotten to the point where I have to take care of myself,” Mashburn said in an interview Monday with The Miami Herald.
Davis scored just 17 points—six below his season average—on 4-of-15 shooting in Game 1 and committed six of the Hornets’ 23 turnovers. Magloire went 5-of-14 from the field for 14 points and committed four turnovers.
Magloire did have 11 rebounds, but Miami won the battle of the boards 41-38. The Heat’s ability to rebound and to force turnovers benefitted their transition game.
“We can get the ball off the rim and push it up the court,” said forward Caron Butler, who had 12 points and five steals. “We’re fortunate to have players with that versatility, so we should use it to our advantage. We’re young and athletic. The crowd loves it when we run, we love it, and it has worked well for us.”
It worked well for Wade in his NBA playoff debut, as he led all players with 21 points, taking advantage of his matchup with an ailing Davis.
“I’m trying to establish my game in the NBA, and I’m going against one of the best point guards,” Wade said. “It’s not the time to get nervous.”
The series moves to New Orleans for Game 3 on Saturday.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Hornets - 5th seed. Heat - 4th seed.
TEAM LEADERS: Hornets - Davis, 17 ppg; Brown and Magloire, 11 rpg; Davis and Stacey Augmon, 4 apg. Heat - Wade, 21 ppg; Odom, 11 rpg; Wade and Odom, 5 apg.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Heat, 3-1. Miami won the first two meetings, then the teams split a pair of games a week apart in March. Jones averaged 18.8 points in the series and the Heat held the Hornets to 36.9 percent shooting. Davis averaged 28 points, eight rebounds and 6.7 assists. New Orleans outrebounded Miami by an average of just three, but had a 58-38 advantage in its lone win.