Hornets looking to match Heat’s “purpose of play” in Game 2

VIDEO: Hornets-Heat Game 2 Preview

MIAMI — The Charlotte Hornets had a lot to think about after getting thumped, 123-91, in Game 1 of their first round series with the Miami Heat on Sunday. And, with Game 2 on Wednesday night (7 p.m. ET, NBA TV), they’ve had two full days off to think about it.

Most of the thinking and adjusting has been about the defensive end of the floor.

“Our offense isn’t the problem at all,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said at shootaround Wednesday morning. “We’re a top-10 defensive team and we got rocked. We weren’t just bad … rocked. They were great and we were terrible. They’re very tough to guard, but from a coverage standpoint, that was as bad as we were all year, and they took full advantage of everything. They’re going to get that ball in the paint, and if you can’t stop them, you’re not going to beat them.”

The Hornets’ pick-and-roll coverage has to be better. And they have to figure out how to handle it when the Heat send a guard to the baseline to throw their normal weak-side rotations out of whack.

“They play guys down along the baseline,” Clifford said Tuesday, “which is pretty conventional in our league. But they do it with perimeter guys, post guys, which is not done a lot. They do it randomly. So it’s not always at the start of a possession where you can be organized whereas it becomes a read. It totally changes your pick and roll coverages.”

Too much Walker-Lin?

Pick-and-rolls weren’t the only problem for the Hornets on Sunday.

“Their pick-and-roll game hurt us,” Clifford said, “but they were 9-for-10 on post-ups.”

Jeremy Lin was helpless trying to defend Dwyane Wade in the post, which may have Clifford rethinking how much time he plays Lin and Kemba Walker together. Walker-Lin was Charlotte’s seventh most-used combination in the regular season, but the Hornets were outscored, 41-28, in their 12 minutes together on Sunday.

“A lot of that’s just going to come with working harder to make the catches extended,” Clifford said, “so at least we can get some help. When they catch it deep and Wade or [Luol] Deng are just going to those little turnaround jumpers, that’s where our size is a problem.”

Early energy a key

The Heat put the Hornets on their heels early and often on Sunday, attacking from the start and racking up a 20-to-4 points-in-the-paint advantage in the first quarter.

“Their purpose of play at both ends of the floor is terrific,” Clifford said. “They utilize the strengths of their players, both offensively and defensively, as well as anybody in the league.”

The Hornets know that they have to match the Heat’s “purpose of play” from the opening tip on Wednesday.

“We just have to be locked in and ready, play with a lot more intensity,” Marvin Williams said. “A lot of things that we were normally good at all year long, we didn’t do well the other night, rebounding, rotations, man-on-man coverages … So we just got to be locked in from the start, and I think guys are ready to do that.”

No “Joe Coach” in Charlotte

Before this series even started, there were questions for Clifford about moving Al Jefferson back into the starting lineup. Now that the Hornets have lost a game, those questions aren’t going away. But Clifford knows that his team can win the same way its been winning for the last two months.

“We’ve played well for 82 games a certain way,” Clifford said. “Could we change something, as it goes on, if it makes sense? Yeah. But not just so I can say I’m playing Joe Coach and we’re going to try something different.”

Comments are closed.