Heat hope to keep Hornets on the run
MIAMI -- To review what the Miami Heat learned from their first playoff game in three years:
Sounds a lot like the regular season.
The Heat started slowly, blew a late lead and still beat the New Orleans 81-79 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference playoff series. Miami won by outscoring the hobbled Hornets 18-0 on fast-break points.
"For us to win this series, we're going to have to be a running team," Heat guard Eddie Jones said Monday. "They're too big and powerful inside for us to sit back and play a half-court game. We have to run."
New Orleans will try to do a better job of keeping up with Miami in Game 2 on Wednesday, but it won't be easy. This season the Heat have outscored the Hornets in transition 69-28, which is one reason Miami has won four of the five games.
Even when healthy, the Hornets are bigger, older and slower. And they're not healthy.
All-Star guard Baron Davis and reserve guard Darrell Armstrong missed practice Monday because of ankle sprains that sidelined them late in the regular season. Davis said he'll definitely play Wednesday, but Armstrong is questionable after failing to score in 16 minutes Sunday.
Davis had a subpar game too, and said he aggravated the injury several times.
"It doesn't feel good," he said Monday. "I've just got to play through it. Before the game I was hyped up and very mobile and dunking again. To come out in the first play of the game and twist the ankle, and pretty much every quarter do something bad to re-injure it, it's definitely frustrating."
Davis let Dwyane Wade drive past him for the game-winning basket with 1.3 seconds left. And Davis struggled to keep up with the Heat in transition.
"We kind of played into their hands," Davis said. "If we can get back and not let them get on those runs where they're getting out on the fast break, we have a lot of confidence in our half-court defense."
In the half court, New Orleans outscored Miami 79-63. But fast breaks kept the Heat in the game in the first half, when they fell behind 38-28, and a breakaway dunk by Wade following a steal ended a five-minute scoring drought by Miami in the fourth quarter.
Coach Stan Van Gundy was pleased with the way his team dealt with the seesaw momentum. It was the first playoff game for five of the Heat's top eight players.
"Hopefully we can learn from it," Van Gundy said dryly, "now that we have playoff experience."
The Heat have already learned they're better when they run, which requires coming up with rebounds and turnovers. In Game 1, Miami matched the Hornets' 51 rebounds and forced 23 turnovers.
"I'm sure they'll make some adjustments," Van Gundy said. "What works one night in the playoffs isn't necessarily going to work the next night. It's going to be hard to get transition baskets throughout the series."
The Heat were a plodding, physical team under Pat Riley, and his approach produced four consecutive Atlantic Division titles. But after Miami lost 57 games last season, Riley revamped the roster by bringing in Lamar Odom, Rafer Alston and rookies Wade and Udonis Haslem, which made the Heat faster and more athletic.
And Van Gundy has encouraged them to run.
"We can get the ball off the rim and push it up the court," forward Caron Butler said. "We're fortunate to have players with that versatility, so we should use it to our advantage. We're young and athletic. The crowd loves it when we run, we love it, and it has worked well for us."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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