The Miami Heat coughed up a big lead against a struggling team at home in their loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday. They will try to make amends for the defeat as they continue to pile up the road games with a visit to the Charlotte Hornets on Friday.
Miami is nearing the end of a stretch in which it plays 17 of 24 games on the road, but the 102-95 home loss to the Blazers - who had lost five in a row and trailed by 16 points in the second half - will sting for a bit. “These are tough to swallow,” guard Wayne Ellington told reporters after the loss. “We played about 43 minutes of Miami Heat basketball. We’ve got to get better at finishing.” The Heat were able to finish just fine in overcoming an early deficit and defeating the Hornets 105-100 earlier this month at home. That result is part of Charlotte’s current 2-8 swoon, which includes a 108-96 loss at NBA-best Houston on Wednesday that dropped the squad to 2-11 on the road.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Sun (Miami), FSN Southeast (Charlotte)
ABOUT THE HEAT (13-14): Hassan Whiteside (knee) has missed seven straight games and coach Erik Spoelstra said Wednesday his star center was not ready to return to practice. Guard Tyler Johnson also missed the game against Portland with a migraine, halting a hot stretch in which he averaged 19.7 points over a three-game span. Ellington led seven players in double figures with a season-high 24 points and he has hit 11-of-16 3-pointers in the last two contests.
ABOUT THE HORNETS (10-17): Charlotte had little chance after falling behind by 15 in the first quarter against the mighty Rockets and there was no great comeback with a 4-for-21 showing from 3-point range. Dwight Howard recorded 26 points and 18 rebounds and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 18 and 11, while the Hornets’ bench - at times a liability this season - had seven players combine for 26 points on 9-of-24 shooting. “All the things we were doing in the first part of the first quarter, [the second unit] didn’t do [when we broke the lineup],” associate head coach Stephen Silas told reporters. “We were doing a good job of moving the ball, not getting turnovers, closing out to their 3-point shooters, getting back in transition, getting our defense set and they blitzed us.”
1. Heat SF Josh Richardson led all scorers with a career-high 27 points in the earlier win over the Hornets.
2. Charlotte PG Kemba Walker missed the first meeting with a shoulder injury but averaged 24.3 points in four games against Miami last season.
3. Hornets C Cody Zeller is out for about six weeks following surgery Tuesday to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
PREDICTION: Hornets 103, Heat 101