The Miami Heat, who are 6-0 at home this season, will play host on Monday night to the Charlotte Hornets, losers of four straight games.
Miami is coming off a rough 113-86 loss at the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night. The Heat never led, trailed by as many as 41 points and shot just 40 percent from the field. Philadelphia shot 50.6 percent, and Heat wing Jimmy Butler, whose brief run with the 76ers last season did not go as planned, was held to 11 points.
“(The Sixers) played incredibly well,” said Butler, who was booed virtually every time he touched the ball.
Meanwhile, Charlotte’s losing skid defies the supposed laws of momentum because it started immediately following two dramatic Hornets wins.
On Nov. 15, Charlotte’s Malik Monk hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Detroit Pistons 109-106. The next night, the Hornets beat the New York Knicks 103-102 on Devonte’ Graham’s 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds left.
Monday’s coaching matchup will feature Charlotte’s James Borrego, who has Mexican ancestry and is the NBA’s first Hispanic coach; and Miami’s Erik Spoelstra, whose heritage traces to the Philippines. He was the NBA’s first Asian-American coach.
“Basketball has become such a global game, and there’s nothing like sports to unite people,” Borrego told Sports Illustrated recently. “I’m an example of the NBA opening up to more people, and I’m proud of that.”
Both teams are relatively healthy as they enter Monday’s game. The main expected absences are Charlotte shooting guard Dwayne Bacon (knee) and Heat point forward Justise Winslow (concussion).
Winslow, who is averaging 13.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists, hasn’t played since Nov. 5. Since then, Miami is 6-2.
With Winslow out, Butler — in his first year with the Heat — has settled in as Miami’s go-to player. He leads the team in scoring (18.8), assists (6.7) and steals (2.8).
The Heat has also gotten excellent production from third-year center Bam Adebayo and rookie guards Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro.
Adebayo, 22, is averaging a team-high 10.1 rebounds to go with 13.9 points and 4.3 assists in his first year as a full-time starter. Last season, he averaged 8.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists.
Nunn, 24, is averaging 16.8 points after getting bypassed in the 2018 NBA Draft and spending last season in the development league.
Herro, 19, is averaging 14.1 points just a few months after Miami selected him in the first round.
Charlotte has struggled in its first season after eight years led by Kemba Walker, the dynamic point guard who bolted to the Boston Celtics as a free agent. Walker averaged 25.6 points last season and missed just six games in the past four years.
The Hornets signed former Celtics guard Terry Rozier to replace Walker. Rozier, who got a four-year, $141 million contract, is averaging 17.4 points and 4.4 assists.
However, it’s Graham, a second-year steal last year out of the University of Kansas, who leads Charlotte in scoring (18.2).
Bacon, who hasn’t started a game since Nov. 10, has given way to Graham. Besides Graham and Rozier, Charlotte’s other starters are center Cody Zeller and forwards PJ Washington and Miles Bridges.
Washington (2019 out of Kentucky) and Bridges (2018 out of Michigan State) are Charlotte’s most recent first-round picks.
–Field Level Media