Heat hope to keep Hornets on the run

MIAMI -- To review what the Miami Heat learned from their
first playoff game in three years:

  • A 10-point first-half deficit doesn't mean much.

  • Neither does a 12-point fourth-quarter lead.

  • The New Orleans Hornets can't run with Miami.

    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

    "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."