Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin combine for 55, Charlotte takes Game 4

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Kelly Dwyer
Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin combine for 55, Charlotte takes Game 4
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A game filled with a wild array of massive and one-sided runs ended up splitting the difference in the end. The Charlotte Hornets continued to defend their home turf, riding the hot hands of guards Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin, tying their series with the Miami Heat at 2-2 with an 89-85 win.

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Walker scorched Miami for 34 in the win on 13-28 from the floor, repeatedly getting into the teeth of the defense and once again working with equal parts talent and charming leadership qualities. He had help in the form of reserve guard Lin, as Joe Johnson’s 16 points paced the Heat.

It was as if both teams took turns playing terrible or brilliant ball on both ends.

The Heat overcame Dwyane Wade’s two early fouls to rush out to an 11-point lead behind Johnson and some timely plays from Luol Deng and center Hassan Whiteside. The tide turned late in the first quarter, though, with Jeremy Lin’s first appearance.

Diving repeatedly at Heat point guard Goran Dragic and taking advantage of reserve center Amar’e Stoudemire’s less-than-stellar defensive footwork, Lin notched 11 points, three assists and two steals in 15 hectic first half minutes. Wade’s second quarter return was not the salve Miami needed; he missed three of four shots in the first half in total, as Miami went stone cold from the floor.

The team went six minutes without a field goal in the second quarter and shot 3-19 overall in the period. Miami turned the ball over eight times as Charlotte giddily took advantage offensively. Walker finished the half with 15 points.

The Hornets continued its hot streak in the third quarter, running out to what turned into a game-high 18-point lead at 57-39, while Heat coach Erik Spoelstra desperately tried to find rotation helpers to stem the tide. Dorell Wright and Udonis Haslem were dusted off for the first time all series, while reserve swingman Gerald Green saw actual crunch time minutes and contributed five needed points.

Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker had each other's backs. (Getty Images)
Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker had each other's backs. (Getty Images)

Charlotte’s 36-8 run completely flipped as Miami sparked up a 17-1 run to pull within two points at 58-56. With a seemingly insurmountable lead nearly evaporated, the Hornets looked at a loss. Haslem, one of the best help defenders of his generation, was fantastic – crowding Charlotte penetrators, taking charges, and keeping plays alive on the other end with tip-outs.

Meanwhile, though Charlotte kept its advantage, the missed opportunities from the first quarter started to eat away at the team’s ability to pull out to another big lead. Starting forwards Marvin Williams and Frank Kaminsky combined to miss nine of 10 shots, center Spencer Hawes missed all three of his looks (all off of broken plays), and though Al Jefferson was game in attempting to score through his polar opposite in the shot-blocking Hassan Whiteside, he missed too many close looks and eight of 12 shots overall.

It wasn’t enough to mitigate the contributions of the team’s stellar backcourt scorers, though.

Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin’s play was infectious. Their effective shooting touch didn’t exactly rub off on their teammates, but both had the crowd and cast of teammates in a frenzy as they fed off of their derring-do. Lin went on to finish with 21 points, tying a playoff career-high.

“We just love playing with each other,” Walker told NBA TV’s Rebecca Haarlow following the game, “we just feed off of each other. [Lin] was super-aggressive making plays, and when he got a little tired then it was my turn to go.”

This appears to be an even series in every conceivable way, but it’s important to remember that we’re just a few days removed from Miami looking two full strides ahead of their Charlotte counterparts, having taken the first two games of the series by a total of 44 points.

Both Spoelstra and Charlotte head coach Steve Clifford – two of the best in the business – have quite a bit of valuable game tape fodder to sift through. Though Charlotte only turned the ball over nine times in the win, Miami’s pressure defense and long arms took the Hornets out of their comfort zones repeatedly. Meanwhile, even if Walker and Lin aren’t hitting from all over in Game 5 and onward, Miami has to do a better job of keeping the pair out of the lane.

Suddenly, we have a series. And in an NBA first round featuring a seeming endless array of blowouts, this is good news.

Even if, on Monday night, Charlotte and Miami seemed incapable of staging anything but a series of in-game mini-blowouts.

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Kelly Dwyer

is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!