Miami Heat hold off Charlotte Hornets

By John Delong, The Sports Xchange  |  Dec. 16, 2017 at 10:09 AM
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Miami Heat gave coach Erik Spoelstra a franchise record-tying 454th career victory on Friday night with a 104-98 win over the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center.

But Spoelstra had some reservations afterward about being tied with his mentor, Pat Riley.

"That would seem like a misprint to me," Spoelstra said when asked what it meant to tie Riley. "Pat has meant everything to me as a coach and as a mentor. I want to win tomorrow night, but I don't want to pass Coach Riley in wins. We all think of him as the guy who should have all the records. He's the one who built this, along with Mickey (Arison). So, I'm just humbled to be there."

Spoelstra couldn't celebrate until the final minute of a bizarre game.

The Heat led by 17 with less than seven minutes to go but the Hornets got as close as two in the final two minutes. Ultimately, Dion Waiters hit a jumper with 1:08 remaining to push a two-point lead to 102-98, and then after two Charlotte misses, Goran Dragic iced the game with two free throws with 9.0 seconds left.

"That's the NBA," Spoelstra said. "Sometimes even crazier things happen in this league. With the advent of the three-point shooting and the volume of three-point shooting, leads can go very fast. You have to be prepared to play a full 48 minutes.

"I like our guys having to go through all that stress and anxiety and having to execute under duress in the context of a close game. We still need to get better, but we'll get there."

Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington came off the bench to lead the Heat with 16 points apiece on a night when the Heat's bench outscored the Hornets' bench 51-35. Ellington was 5 of 10 from 3-point range and Johnson was a perfect 4 of 4 from beyond the arc.

The Heat also got 12 points from Waiters and 11 each from Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo.

The Heat (14-14) have now won three of their last four, and they feel they should have won what turned out to be a seven-point home loss to Portland on Wednesday night.

"Last game we felt like we should have won that," Ellington said. "But it was good to get a good one tonight. I feel like we're turning a corner. We're heading in the right direction for sure. We're realizing what our strengths are on the offensive end of the floor, and we realize where we need to be on the defensive end of the floor. If we continue to do that, we're trending in the right direction."

Ellington's 3-pointer gave Miami a 94-77 lead with 7:30 remaining.

"Actually, in that stretch where we pulled away I thought it was our defense more than anything," Ellington said. "We were really getting it done on the defensive end, and that enabled us to get out and run the floor and get some good looks."

The Hornets (10-18) have now lost nine of their last 11. They received a chorus of boos from the Spectrum Center crowd during a time out when they were down 16 in the fourth, before the late surge. That's the first time all season the Spectrum Center crowd has booed so loudly.

"We're not slacking," said Hornets associate head coach Stephen Silas, who again filled in for the ailing Steve Clifford. "We're not not playing hard at all. Some of those turnovers were not smart. So part of it is playing smarter. But part of it, to me, is also making shots. If we would have made some shots tonight, we would have had a better chance."

Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 25 points. Dwight Howard had 15 points and 16 rebounds. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 13, Jeremy Lamb 12 and Frank Kaminsky 10. But the Hornets shot just 41 percent from the field and committed 17 turnovers.

"Sometimes they say it's a make or miss league," Silas said. "We had some open shots, like wide open shots, that we didn't make. The ball was moving pretty well and they didn't go for us. I mean, we shot 41 percent and they shot 50 percent. They just had stretches in the game where we turned the ball over and they came down and scored."

NOTES: The Heat won the only previous game between the teams this season, 105-100 in Miami on Dec. 1. They will meet two more times. ... The Heat were without C Hassan Whiteside (left knee bone bruise), F Justise Winslow (left knee strain), G Rodney McGruder (left tibia surgery) and F Okara White (left foot surgery). ... The Hornets were without F Cody Zeller (left knee surgery). ... The Hornets are now 2-5 since coach Steve Clifford left the team to deal with an unspecified health issue. There is still no time frame on Clifford's return. ... Both teams were coming off Wednesday losses. The Heat lost to Portland 102-95 at home, while the Hornets lost at Houston 108-96. ... The Heat have been better on the road this season (9-7) than at home (5-7).

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