For Courtney Lee, massages apparently double as bible studies, and his dual session yesterday proved useful.
Lee scored the final points – a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left after looking limber while extending the possession with an offensive rebound – in the Hornets’ 90-88 Game 5 win over the Heat on Wednesday.
“She was explaining faith, and it was like just believe in something that you can’t see,” said Lee, who was who was 1-for-8 before his final attempt. “And like you said, it’s not my best shooting performance. I felt like I couldn’t make a shot. But the biggest one went in.”
You couldn’t see it when Miami started 4-for-4 with every basket coming at a rim protected by Al Jefferson and Frank Kaminsky. You couldn’t see it when Dwyane Wade (25 points) scored repeatedly against tough Lee defense down the stretch. You couldn’t see it when Lee missed a fastbreak layup – that Wade might have gotten away with goaltending – with just over a minute left.
Yet, Charlotte – which entered the league as an expansion franchise in 1988, moved to New Orleans in 2002, reemerged as the Bobcats in 2004 and changed its nickname back to the Hornets in 2014 – leads Miami 3-2 and is one win from its first-ever best-of-seven series victory. The Hornets, who hadn’t won a single playoff game until Saturday since reentering the NBA as the Bobcats, can close the series at home in Game 6 Friday.
The team leading a best-of-seven series 3-2 has won 85% of the time.
How Charlotte earn this advantageous position? Shooting below 40%, barely offensively rebounding (by design) and attempting a series-low (for either team) 15 free throws.
But the Hornets bombed away from outside, making 12-of-24 3-pointers, and made the key plays. Marvin Williams (17 points, eight rebounds, two assists and three steals) came up big, especially defensively. Nicolas Batum, who’s playing hurt and looked it, missed his first four shots then hit two big 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. And Lee – as he did in Game 4 – grabbed a clutch offensive rebound.
With three straight wins, Charlotte has seized loose control of this series. The Hornets have faith.
One more win, and everyone will have no choice but to believe.