The Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat returned to action from the All-Star break Friday night.
The Hornets collected a rare prize, stretching their winning streak to a season-best three games by beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 121-113 in Minneapolis.
The Heat, on the other hand, won’t want any part of an encore of their first game back and will look for a quick recovery against the Hornets on Saturday night in Charlotte.
Miami is riding a three-game losing streak after taking a 128-99 road loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
“The game was just so disjointed overall,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, adding “Winning is a priority right now.”
The Hornets are looking to repeat the kind of performance they put together Friday night.
“They came back and we had two good days of practice, which is so critical,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said of his players. “I think they were rewarded for their attitude about their work.”
Clifford added, “We competed hard. We made a bunch of plays in the fourth quarter. We had a lot of guys play well, so hopefully we can build on it and play well (Saturday).”
LaMelo Ball has been Charlotte’s leading scorer in three consecutive games, and he posted 32 points at Minnesota, one point off his season high, while contributing 10 rebounds and eight assists. Yet that came in a team-high 40 minutes on the front end of games on back-to-back games.
Ball wasn’t doing it alone, as Gordon Hayward had season highs with 27 points and 13 rebounds.
Another good sign for the Hornets, who are beginning a four-game homestand with Miami’s visit, was the return of guard Kelly Oubre Jr., who had been out following hand surgery. He played Friday night for the first time since Dec. 29, compiling eight points in 23 minutes off the bench.
“Having Kelly back will help as he gets into rhythm,” Clifford said.
The Hornets also had Terry Rozier in action for 33 minutes even though he had been questionable to play because of a sprained hand.
Miami’s offense has gone south, failing to reach the 110-point mark in five straight games. The Heat received 23 points on Friday from Jimmy Butler, who shot 8-for-10 from the field. The rest of the Miami players were 28-for-82, 34.1 percent.
“Our offense didn’t help,” Spoelstra said. “I think we settled for some tough shots against a very good defense.”
If there was a positive for the Heat, it could be that their reserves got quite a bit of playing time, so the team’s core players weren’t overtaxed.
Miami backup center Cody Zeller appeared in his first regular-season game of the season, scoring 10 points in 16 minutes after signing with the team on Monday. He played his first eight NBA seasons with Charlotte, so Saturday’s game will mark a homecoming for him.
“Being away from the game that long, it’s a credit to him that he has stayed in shape,” Spoelstra said.
Miami’s 9-for-40 shooting from 3-point range (22.5 percent) isn’t likely to cut it.
Charlotte beat the Heat 122-117 on Jan. 29 at home. Miami won twice earlier in the season at home when the Hornets visited for back-to-back games Nov. 10 and Nov. 12.
–Field Level Media