Keys to a Charlotte Hornets Comeback Against Miami

With the first round of the NBA playoffs underway, six teams swept the opening two games at home. This includes the Miami Heat, who took care of business in dominant fashion, manhandling the Charlotte Hornets in their two games in Miami. Although the Heat have looked completely unstoppable thus far, this series is far from over. If the Hornets can come home and respond with a couple of strong efforts, they’ll be able to get back into this series and possibly head back to Miami tied 2-2. So what will it take for a Charlotte Hornets comeback, you ask? Let’s take a look at what should be the points of emphasis for the Hornets for games three and four.

Keys to a Charlotte Hornets Comeback Against Miami

Get Marvin Williams and Jeremy Lin going

While I disagree with Hornets head coach Steve Clifford suggesting that “Usually the adjustment is some guy that went 1-for-8 [now went] 6-for-8”, he’s still right, to some extent. Marvin Williams shot a combined 1-for-17 in the first two games, while Jeremy Lin was just 4-for-11. While these guys aren’t as important as Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum, they’re still crucial to Charlotte’s success. Williams has revived his career this season as a stretch four, providing an extra option for Walker to drive and kick to out of the pick-and-roll. Williams can hit catch-and-shoot threes or put the ball on the floor if the defense steps out to guard him. Lin is also integral off the bench, as he is a good secondary ball handler to relieve pressure from Walker. The Hornets need Lin’s playmaking ability to keep their offense flowing, especially if Batum’s ankle injury keeps him out for the rest of the series.

Defense, defense, defense

The Hornets have allowed the Heat to shoot about 58 percent from the field and have given up nine made threes in each of the first two games. Additionally, Miami is averaging 119 points per game in the series, with an offensive rating of 136.9 – a number that would blow away Golden State’s league leading regular season number. This simply cannot happen if Charlotte expects to win. The Hornets have to hustle harder, rotate faster while defending pick-and-rolls, and close out harder on shooters. They have to bump Hassan Whiteside out of the paint, and they can’t allow Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng to do whatever they want, as they have in the first two games. This is all easier said than done, but the Hornets have the tools to get stops, with eighth best defensive rating in the regular season. Now, it all comes down to Charlotte giving maximum effort and focus on the defensive end, from start to finish.

Bench Frank Kaminsky and go small

Just imagine how this series would have gone if the Hornets had taken Justise Winslow – who was the obvious choice at the time, and even more obvious now – instead of Kaminsky in last year’s draft, and Winslow hadn’t fallen into the laps of the Heat. Winslow has been crucial to the Heat, allowing them to go small and push the pace, while actually being at their best on defense. But for Charlotte, Kaminsky has been atrocious. In 37 minutes combined between the first two games, Kaminsky had just one field goal attempt, which he missed. If Kaminsky isn’t shooting the ball well – or at all, for that matter – then why is he on the floor? Certainly not for his defense, because he’s a huge liability on that end. The Al Jefferson-Kaminsky combination shouldn’t play a single minute, as Winslow and Deng routinely blow by Kaminsky – or shoot if he doesn’t step out to the three point line – when one of them plays the four. There’s just no place to hide the rookie big man, and he should be completely cut from Charlotte’s rotation. Instead of playing the big man tandem, the Hornets should stick with small ball for the entire game, to match Miami’s deadly lineups which have burned Charlotte’s defense so badly.

Hope that Nicolas Batum is healthy

At the end of the day, this is an uphill battle for the Hornets. They can do a lot to turn this series in their favour, but it may not matter too much if Batum’s ankle prevents him from playing in the rest of this series. Batum is a key all by himself, doing just about everything this year for the Hornets. Without Batum on the wing, all of Charlotte’s small ball lineups become significantly weaker. He is vital to this team’s success – he’s Charlotte’s best defender against Joe Johnson and Deng, he’s their second best playmaker and passer behind Walker, and he’s become a solid shooter again after a down year in the 2014-15 season. If Batum is healthy, the Hornets may still have a fighting chance in this series, as bad as it looks right now. But if Batum misses the rest of the series, it’s going to be very, very difficult for Charlotte to do anything of significance. That’s just the reality of the NBA playoffs.