Hornets snap playoff skid with win over Heat, Pacers pull level

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END OF DROUGHT  Jeremy Lin No.7 of the Charlotte Hornets is defended by Goran Dragic No.7 and Joe Johnson No.2 of the Miami Heat during game two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on Sunday in Miami, Florida. The Hornets beat the Miami Heat 96-80 for their first NBA playoff victory in 14 years.  AFP PHOTO

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Jeremy Lin No.7 of the Charlotte Hornets is defended by Goran Dragic No.7 and Joe Johnson No.2 of the Miami Heat during game two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on Sunday in Miami, Florida. The Hornets beat the Miami Heat 96-80 for their first NBA playoff victory in 14 years. AFP PHOTO

LOS ANGELES: Jeremy Lin scored 18 points to lead a balanced Charlotte attack on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) as the Hornets beat the Miami Heat 96-80 for their first NBA play-off victory in 14 years.

After two deflating defeats in Miami, the Hornets fed off their home crowd to trim the deficit in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series to 2-1.

In the late game Saturday, Damian Lillard scored a game high 32 points as the Portland Trail Blazers beat Los Angeles 96-88 to cut the Clippers lead in the series to 2-1.

The Hornets led by five points at halftime, and held the Heat scoreless for almost seven minutes in an 18-0 scoring run in the third quarter that built their lead to 71-53.


The cushion grew to as many as 24 points in the fourth quarter as six Charlotte players finished in double figures.

It was a complete reversal from the Heat’s 106-80 home win in game one and a 115-103 win in game two.

“Our intensity, our defence, our communication was so much better,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said.

“So it’s a good win and if we can come back and play better in some areas Monday night, it’ll give us a chance to tie the series.”

Kemba Walker contributed 17 points and rookie Frank Kaminsky, part of yet another new starting lineup from coach Steve Clifford, added 15.

Marvin Williams notched a double-double of 12 points and 14 rebounds, and the Hornets set a club post-season record for fewest turnovers with four.

The Heat, who combined to shoot 57.8 percent in winning two games in Miami, hit 10 of their first 15 shots but then struggled to find the basket.

They missed nine straight attempts during Charlotte’s 18-0 run, connecting on 34.2 percent from the field for the game.

Luo Deng led the Heat with 19 points. Dwayne Wade scored 17 and Hassan Whiteside added 13 points and 18 rebounds for the Heat, who will try to rebound on the road in game four on Monday.

The Michael Jordan-owned Hornets, meanwhile, will be trying to build on the momentum of their first post-season win since they reached the Eastern Conference semi-finals in the 2001-02 season.

They had been swept in two playoff series since.

“This is best of seven,” Deng said. “We knew at some point they’d have a good game.

“It wasn’t going to be one of those where you keep them quiet the whole series. They’re good players and they responded.”

Thunder battle past Mavericks
In Dallas, the Oklahoma City Thunder moved another step closer to reaching the second round of the playoffs with a wire-to-wire 119-108 win over the Mavericks.

Oklahoma City has not trailed since its game two loss and it now has a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series with game five set for Monday.

History is against a Dallas’ comeback in the series as only nine teams in NBA have rallied to win a best-of-seven playoff series after trailing 3-1.

Russell Westbrook had 25 points and 15 assists, and Kevin Durant finished with 19 points.

The game got physical as Durant was ejected with less than a minute left after the officials called him for a “flagrant” foul.

Durant had been trying to block a shot by Mavs guard Justin Anderson, but hit the top of the rookie’s head instead of the ball.

“I texted him and told him I wasn’t trying to hurt him,” Durant said.

In Indianapolis, French center Ian Mahinmi scored 22 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and handed out five assists to help the Indiana Pacers to a 100-83 series-tying win over Toronto.

George Hill added 22 points for the Pacers, which knotted the Eastern Conference set at two games apiece.

“Everybody has to be a scoring option for us, and today they were,” said Paul George, who scored 19 points for the Pacers. “Ian played amazing. You don’t expect 22, 10 and five from him.

“Guys responded to our loss in game three, the ball moved and we made shots,” George said.

AFP

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