PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference first round; tied 2-2.
The Miami Heat are happy to return home.
After dropping two straight in New Orleans, the Heat look to remain undefeated at home this season against the Hornets when they continue their best-of-7 first-round series.
Miami has won each of its four home games against New Orleans this season, including the first two in this series. They have won 14 straight overall at America Airlines Arena.
“I don’t want to sound weak or meek,” Miami forward Lamar Odom said. “But I’m looking forward to getting back in front of our crowd, and maybe we can get some momentum.”
New Orleans, though, has played well the past two games.
“We’re in the driver’s seat,” Hornets guard David Wesley said.
Miami has lost two games in a row for the first time since March 2, and another Heat defeat would give New Orleans a chance to finish the series at home Sunday. Game 7, if necessary, would be in Miami on Tuesday.
“Man, we can’t close these guys out,” Odom said. “Maybe it’s meant to go to seven.”
New Orleans is riding the momentum of Baron Davis’ inspirational play.
The All-Star guard, battling various injuries, had 23 points, 10 assists and no turnovers while again containing Dwyane Wade with great defense in a 96-85 Hornets win Tuesday.
“You’re not going to see too much explosion out of me,” said Davis, who is favoring his sprained left ankle. “I just have to find different ways and angles to the basket because I can’t jump over anybody right now.”
Davis says his left knee, on which he wears a blue fabric brace, back and elbow also are hurting. Davis’ limitations were exposed in Game 1. His potential game-winning layup was blocked by Lamar Odom. Then he was beaten by Dwyane Wade on a drive and short floater that gave the Heat the victory. In Game 3, however, Davis scored a team high 21 points as the Hornets cut their series deficit to 2-1.
“This is the first time in my 10-year career somebody has been on the floor more than me,” said scrappy Hornets reserve guard Darrell Armstrong.
“Even if he didn’t make shots, his presence on the floor is valuable. That’s what he’s got to understand,” Armstrong added. “It’s not all about him scoring. His toughness was out there … his presence was out there.”
The Hornets are older and slower but also bigger and more experienced than the Heat, and those advantages have become evident in the past two games. Miami looked frustrated at times Tuesday against a defense that limited Miami’s options on offense.
The Heat had just 14 points in the fourth quarter. Caron Butler, Eddie Jones and Wade combined for two points in the period on 1-for-9 shooting. Wade has missed 15 of 20 shots in his team’s two losses, and finished Game 4 on the bench.
“You have to look at what you’re running and whether you’re getting the ball to certain people,” Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said.
The Hornets made 50 percent of their shots for the first time in 20 games. That was more than double their percentage in a 30-point loss in Game 2.
“There’s new pressure on them,” Wesley said. “They have something to think about.”
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Hornets - 5th seed. Heat - 4th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Hornets - Davis, 18.5 ppg; Brown, 9.3 rpg; Davis, 6.5 apg. Heat - Odom, 18.3 ppg; Grant, 9.5 rpg; Wade, 5.3 apg.