The Miami Heat controlled the glass and the game in utterly destroying the Charlotte Hornets.
Miami held a +22 edge on the glass, and that interior dominance paved the way for the Heat to wreck the Hornets in a decisive Game Seven.
Heat point guard Goran Dragic had a standout game and was able to go just about wherever he wanted on the court. He weaved his way through Charlotte's weak perimeter defense and managed to get everyone going. Dragic and Hassan Whiteside ran the pick and roll frequently, with favorable results as the Hornets bigs struggled to contend with Whiteside's length.
The Heat also excelled defensively, turning Kemba Walker from a scoring machine to an ineffective bystander. It was a dominant performance from Miami all around, and the Heat seemed to feed on its home crowd. The home court advantage factored massively as it tends to in Game Sevens.
The NBA has had 121 Game 7s in playoff history and the home team has won 80 percent of those games (97-24). The Heat simply fulfilled a long-standing trend, but let us dissect the three keys to Miami’s dominance in this one:
1) The Heat were dominant and aggressive on the glass
Miami was all over the boards early in this game and it was making a huge difference as the Heat frequently got second chance looks. Miami had six offensive boards in the first quarter, and five by the 3:58 mark as it took a 19-13 lead while maintaining a 14-5 edge on the glass at that point. It really only got worse.
The Heat won the battle of the boards 58-36, and Miami finished the game with 10 offensive rebounds. The Hornets seemed to have no answer to Whiteside’s length, and Luol Deng made every effort to get inside position on the offensive end. Whiteside finished with five offensive rebounds and 12 overall.
2) Goran Dragic was a stone cold assassin
Goran Dragic seemed to relish the big stage of Game Seven. He had 17 points in the first half as the Heat raced out to a 54-42 lead at the intermission. Dragic played a really strong game and kept his turnovers down (just two) despite a high usage role within the offense. Dragic hit 11 of 17 from the field and also had six boards and four assists. He seemed to do little wrong in this one, and his defense on Kemba Walker was a big factor, as well.
Dragic even displayed his athleticism with a rare two-handed dunk on a run-out. Dragic and Dwyane Wade (12 points, six rebounds) tag teamed Charlotte in the third quarter as the Heat began the period on a 20-4 run forcing a Charlotte timeout mid-quarter. The Heat won the third period 29-11, and that resulted in a 30-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
3) Miami made Kemba Walker a non-factor
Kemba Walker was just 1 of 6 from the field at the half and scarcely seemed like he had even been on the court. Things did not get much better for him as the second half unfolded. He had just nine points in the game while going an ice-cold 3 of 16 from the field. He finished -17 for his 36 minutes on the court, and all of Charlotte’s starters finished heavily in the negative for that matter.
Kemba Walker shot 0 of 5 in the paint and misfired on five of his six attempted threes.
Charlotte relies heavily on Walker’s scoring exploits and with Miami forcing him into tough contested looks the Hornets seemed sunk, especially given that Nicolas Batum was playing at less than full-strength. Charlotte simply does not have enough scorers to withstand a key fixture struggling. Perhaps the Hornets look to add another shooter and scorer this offseason.
The Hornets are on the cusp in the East, and this series was a big step forward even if the results were disappointing for the Hornets.
The Heat will go on to face the winner of the Indiana Pacers-Toronto Raptors series which is headed to a decisive Game Seven at 8 PM EST Sunday.