CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte Hornets were able to snap two losing streaks at the same time with one impressive performance on Wednesday night.
The Hornets held on down the stretch to beat the Miami Heat 96-89, snapping a three-game losing streak and gaining their first win over the Heat since 2010 — a span of 16 regular-season games and four playoff games.
Al Jefferson led the way with a season-high 28 points and 10 rebounds, then admitted that this win was satisfying on several fronts.
“Some of the guys in this locker room have never beaten Miami, so it’s good to get that monkey off your back,” Jefferson said. “But it’s also good to stop that three-game streak, too. We were talking and that’s probably more important, to get that win.”
The Hornets (2-3) never beat the Heat during the LeBron James era, including a 4-0 sweep in the first round of the playoffs last season. The 16-game regular-season streak matched the longest winning streak the Heat has had against any opponent, and was the longest losing streak the Charlotte franchise has had against any opponent.
The Hornets led by as many as 15 in the fourth quarter, thanks to a 17-4 run late in the third and early in the fourth. Then they weathered a late Miami rally that got as close as three in the final three minutes.
Hornets coach Steve Clifford still isn’t ready to proclaim the Hornets — with two new starters and six new players on the roster — a cohesive unit yet. But he liked the effort, especially defensively, as the Hornets held the Heat to 39 percent shooting from the field.
“We haven’t really found our togetherness yet, our team intensity yet, and some of the guys haven’t found their individual intensity,” Clifford said. “But tonight, I thought we stuck together, we fought hard, defense was obviously very good, and then we made enough plays there at the end of the game to hold on.”
Jefferson was 13 of 25 from the field, and had two clutch baskets to help thwart the Miami rally down the stretch. He said that the game plan was to take the ball at Miami’s Chris Bosh and make him work on the defensive end.
“He’s like a point guard playing the five,” Jefferson said of Bosh. “It’s one of the toughest matchups I ever have to face going up against him, trying to defend him. But the challenge, like coach said, is to make him guard me also and get them out of what they’re trying to do, and I won the matchup tonight. Four losses last year and the playoffs, but it worked out tonight.”
The Hornets also got 18 points from Kemba Walker, including a three-pointer that pushed a three-point lead to six with 1:53 remaining, and then four free throws in the final 21.7 seconds.
Dwyane Wade led Miami (3-2) with 25 points, and Bosh finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra pointed to Charlotte’s 13 offensive rebounds and 20 second-chance points as one of the biggest keys to the game.
“It just seemed like we could never get over the hump,” Spoelstra said. “Most of it was probably decided in 50-50, ball on the floor type areas. Everything else was probably evenly played. It wasn’t the smoothest game and sometimes those games are decided by the extra effort activity plays. Certainly the second-chance opportunities they had made a big difference in this game. The loose balls and the 50-50s, they seemed to have a jump in really all of those departments.”
“We’re not going to win the game when we go on the road and give the home team an edge,” Wade said. “Right now we’re not capable of giving them an edge and winning the ball game. They beat us with the effort points, and that’s the one thing you don’t want to get beat at. But these are things we’re going to learn from.”
NOTES: The Heat were without C Chris Andersen (rib contusion), F Udonis Haslem (strained quad) and F Danny Granger (strained hamstring). … The Hornets were without F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (rib contusion). … Both teams were concluding a stretch of four games in five nights. The Hornets were coming off a 100-91 loss at New Orleans on Tuesday, while the Heat lost to Houston 108-91 at home on Tuesday. … Hornets G Jeffery Taylor remains away from the team as the NBA continues to investigate his domestic assault case. He has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to probation. … The Hornets will be home against Atlanta on Friday, then will head out for a four-game West Coast trip. … The Heat will be off until Saturday when they host Minnesota.
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