Heat beat up Hornets in Game 1

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
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Hassan Whiteside started to flex his right arm while still swinging on the rim by his left hand. It was as if he couldn’t wait until landing to celebrate his strength.

A moment later, Whiteside came down from his dunk while drawing a foul, flexed both arms and smacked his chest. From the bench, teammates Justise Winslow, Richardson and Briante Weber imitated him with their own flexes, exaggeratedly puffed-out chests and big grins.

The Heat overpowered the Hornets inside in a 123-91 Game 1 laugher Sunday.

Luol Deng scored 31 as Miami set a franchise record for points in a playoff game. The Heat’s field-goal percentage, 57.6, was the most by any team this postseason or last. Their 28 baskets in the paint matched Charlotte’s total makes.

Even when Miami missed, it turned out OK. Before the final quarter, when they took their foot off the gas, the Heat had a offensive rating of 81.8… on possessions where they missed a shot. That’s better than the Rockets (73.9) or Mavericks (70.4) did overall yesterday.

Miami was so dominant, history suggests this series is already over. No NBA team has ever lost a first-round series after winning Game 1 by at least 30, going 12-for-12 entering this year.

Charlotte falls to 0-9 in the playoffs since reemerging as the Bobcats in 2004, and this defeat was twice as lopsided as any of the other eight.

Recovering from this setback won’t be easy. The Hornets allowed an NBA-low 20.2% offensive-rebounding percentage during the regular season, but the Heat cranked that up to 43.5% through three quarters. Essentially, Charlotte’s biggest strength turned into a debilitating liability.

Whiteside (21 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and two steals) dictated so much of the game, acing his first playoff test. Dwyane Wade added 16 points, using his post-up skills well.

Nicolas Batum (24 points) provided a little individual offensive punch for Charlotte, but he couldn’t help get his teammates going against a stifling Heat defense. He had more turnovers (three) than assists (one), as did Kemba Walker (two to one).