Jeremy Lin made plays worthy of imitating the Michael Jordan shrug.
Kemba Walker made plays worthy of a big high five and a tight hug from Jordan himself.
The point guards – with Jordan, the Hornets’ owner, watching courtside – lifted Charlotte to an 89-85 win over the Heat on Monday. After dropping the first two games in Miami, the Hornets have won twice in Charlotte to tie the series 2-2.
Has the tide turned for the Hornets? History suggests no. When the home team has won the first four games of a best-of-seven series, the team with home-court advantage – the Heat, in this case – has won 82% of time.
But at least Charlotte, which hadn’t won a playoff game until Saturday since reemerging as the Bobcats in 2004, puts plenty of pressure on Miami for Game 5 Wednesday.
Walker(34 points, three steals) and Lin (21 points on 10 shots, two steals, +17) were magnificent Monday.
Lin changed the game with his quickness, swarming passing lanes and getting the Hornets into early offense after falling behind double digits early. He scored 10 straight Charlotte points in the late third/early fourth quarters – including banking in a 3-pointer then shrugging while looking in Jordan’s general direction. But then the offense stalled, and the Hornets went scoreless for more than four minutes.
Walker scored 11 points in fewer than three minutes, every Charlotte point in that span, to give the Hornets a seven-point lead with three minutes left.
“He got a little tired,” Walker said of Lin, whom also drew plenty of compliments from the starter. “Then, it was my turn to go. My teammates kept telling me it’s time to take over.”
But Dwyane Wade – who finished with 12 points, 10 assists and two blocks – made a couple late shots to get Miami within two. So, how did Charlotte hold on?
Courtney Lee offensively rebound his own on the Hornets’ penultimate possessions. Though they didn’t score, that helped run down the clock. Then, Lee was set to grab another offensive rebound on the following possession when he drew a loose-ball foul and made a pair of free throws for the game’s final points.
It was a tight finish after the teams traded major blows early. Hornets went on a 15-1 run in second quarter, and Miami answered with a 17-1 run in third quarter.
After all the major swings back and forth, this has settled into a pretty entertaining series.