Career night for Miami Heat’s Richardson boosts team past Hornets

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 1: Josh Richardson
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 1: Josh Richardson /

A career night from Josh Richardson was enough to lift the Miami Heat past the Charlotte Hornets, 105-100.

The Miami Heat, plagued once again by offensive struggles to start the game, tried to find their rhythm in a win against their Southeast Division rival, the Charlotte Hornets. With former Heat star Shaquille O’Neal watching courtside, the Heat managed to flip a 15-point first quarter deficit into a one-point lead to end the first half.

An early technical foul on head coach Erik Spoelstra did little to light a fire under Miami, who missed their first 11 shots.

Instead, the offensive shift was in part shouldered by Wayne Ellington, whose shooting continued to make a case to join the 2018 NBA All-Star 3-Point Contest. Ellington converted on four of his triples in the first half and ended the night shooting 5-for-9 from the field, for 14 points. Kelly Olynyk and Josh Richardson also came up big early, combining for 18 points in the first 24 minutes of play.

While the scoring problem was eventually assuaged, defensively Miami was searching for answers for Hornets’ center Dwight Howard. With Hassan Whiteside out for one to two weeks with a bruised left knee, Bam Adebayo earned the tough coverage assignment to start the game. In just his fifth start of the season, Adebayo battled in the paint, fronting Howard to prevent easy entry passes and kept active hands in the lane. The rookie went on to end the game with two blocks and five rebounds in 18 minutes of play.

Though Howard proved a tough cover, the Hornets, who average the league’s lowest turnovers per game (13.2) ended the half with 15 to Miami’s 12. Further bailing out Miami were Howard’s five fouls and his subsequent benching, both of which came by the seven-minute mark of the third quarter.

Despite the sloppy play, the Heat showed flashes of confidence throughout the contest. Justise Winslow, who has made leaps in his rebounding and ball handling, continues to show promise in attacking the rim and finishing through contact. A baseline jam and a handful of layups tallied to Winslow’s seven points, in addition to his 11 rebounds and three assists. Josh Richardson also found his groove, scoring a career-high 27 points, his third straight game in double digits.

Entering the fourth quarter with 18 turnovers, the Miami Heat bolstered the lineup with James Johnson, Dion Waiters, Dragic, Olynyk and the hot-handed Richardson down the stretch. Midway through the fourth, Dion Waiters came alive as only he can, drilling his third 3-ball of the second half to tie the game at 88, and knocking down a fourth late in the game to buttress the lead to six. Johnson, who went scoreless through three quarters, contributed all eight of his points in the fourth, but none shone brighter than Richardson, whose explosive offense signaled a comeback after Miami’s last pair of losses.

Next: Miami Heat's Hassan Whiteside sidelined again, team to step up

Hopefully the Heat will carry this momentum into their second and final matchup against the Golden State Warriors, on Sunday, December 3.