Heat-Hornets Preview

BY foxsports • April 28, 2016

The Charlotte Hornets are in position to win their first playoff series in 14 years, yet remain faithful to the role of underdog.

Facing elimination, the Miami Heat seem ready to welcome that challenge.

The upstart Hornets can take the series on their home court from the third-seeded Heat with a fourth consecutive victory Friday night in Game 6.

Though Charlotte won 48 games in the regular season, as the sixth seed it's played with something to prove throughout this series.

"We definitely have a chip on our shoulder," guard Kemba Walker said. "It doesn't get talked about the things that we do. We have a huge chip on our shoulder."

The Hornets are on the verge of their first playoff series win since beating Orlando in 2002 after they overcame losing the first two games on the road by 44 points. Courtney Lee hit two of the nine shots he attempted Wednesday, but the final one was good from 3-point range with 25.2 seconds left in a 90-88 win at Miami.

Charlotte is shooting 40.7 percent in the series but has gained the advantage with defense. The Heat averaged 119.0 points and shot 57.8 percent in the first two before putting up 84.3 per game on 38.6 percent since.

"We've got to play with that same edge, that same mentality," Hornets forward Marvin Williams said.

Including this series, Charlotte has won five of six at home against Miami.

"We're definitely going to feed off our crowd's energy," said Walker, who scored 34 in Monday's 89-85 home victory in Game 4.

"We're just going to play. I don't think we have any pressure. We're not supposed to be here anyway."

The pressure should fall on Miami, which has won four straight first-round series but knew this one would not be a walk.

"Nobody said this was going to be easy," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Nobody's giving out free tickets to the second round. You do have to earn it. You do have to go through situations together. It's our first real test when our backs are against the wall."

And one Spoelstra wants his team to embrace.

"We have to play confident and free of mind," he said. "Frustration is what we can't bring out there.

"This is what you want as a competitor. These are the games you remember. You don't remember the games that are double-digit wins, you remember the ones that you're tested and challenged."

Since star Dwyane Wade entered the league in 2003-04, Miami is 7-7 when facing elimination. The 34-year-old scored 25 on 11-of-19 shooting Wednesday, but had a combined 29 while going 11 of 31 from the field in the two playoff games at Charlotte.

"Figure out a way to get a win," Wade said. "It gets no tougher than that in the playoffs."

The Heat benefited from going 18 of 34 from beyond the arc in the first two games, but have shot 33.3 percent over the last three and went 5 of 18 in Game 5. Luol Deng went 11 of 17 from distance in the first three games but 4 of 14 in the last two.

"I think we've got the looks we've wanted in the series," Miami guard Josh Richardson said. "We've just got to stay aggressive. We can't play any different because it hasn't fallen our way."

Though reports surfaced this week that Miami star Chris Bosh (blood clots) believes he's healthy enough to play for the first time since early February, the club does not appear ready to make it happen Friday.

Charlotte, meanwhile, will be minus reserve center Spencer Hawes because of a knee injury.

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