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Heat blows 20-point lead to Hornets as NBA heads into indefinite hiatus for coronavirus

The Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets stood huddled around their benches at AmericanAirlines Arena to talk through the final moments of a timeout with 4:13 left in the fourth quarter. The Heat had once held a 20-point lead and now they were furiously trying to come back after falling behind by double figures in the second half. As they stood on the court in Miami, the NBA made a stunning announcement.

The league will is suspending play indefinitely and will use its hiatus to determine next steps. Still, the Heat and Hornets returned to the court to play out the final minutes of their last game for the foreseeable future. Miami’s comeback ultimately fell short and Charlotte hung on for a 109-98 win.

It could be the Heat’s final game for weeks — maybe months — after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus Wednesday. A few hours earlier, the Jazz’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City was canceled just seconds before it was scheduled to tipoff because of the All-Star’s illness, which was not yet announced as coronavirus.

Miami will head into this undetermined layoff as the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Heat exploded for an 18-point lead at the end of the first quarter in Miami by shooting nearly 85 percent from the field and nearly 90 percent from three-point range. By the end of the second quarter, the Heat was in an eight-point hole, spiraling toward a loss.

After opening 16 of 19 from the field and 8 of 9 from three-point range in the opening period, Miami shot just 23 of 65 and 7 of 35 the rest of the way.

The Heat played Wednesday without All-Star wing Jimmy Butler, who was out with an injury to his left big toe. For 12 minutes, it didn’t seem to matter.It took until the eighth shot of the game for Miami to finally miss. It took until the 17th to miss again.

The Heat finished the first quarter 16 of 19 from the field and 8 of 9 on three-pointers. All nine of the three-point attempts were open, as was nearly every one of the 19 field goals. Miami led by as much as 20 in the period and took a 40-22 lead into the second.

In less than 10 minutes, the massive lead was gone. The Hornets opened the quarter on an 18-1 run and the Heat’s only point came on a technical free throw. Miami didn’t score its first field goal of the quarter until 6:04 remained in the half and its lead was down to 41-40. With 2:46 left in the first half, Charlotte took the lead on a three by star guard Devonte Graham and the Heat never led again.

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Rookie guard Kendrick Nunn, and forwards Bam Adebayo and Derrick Jones Jr. provided nearly all the offense for Miami. Nunn scored 24 on 9-of-15 shooting, Jones scored 23 on 10-of-13 shooting, and Adebayo finished with 21 points and 10 assists. Those three combined to score 68 points on 29-of-42 shooting. Everyone else on the roster had 30 on 10-of-41 shooting and sharpshooting swingman Duncan Robinson, who set a franchise record by making a three in his 50th straight game, went just 3 of 13 from deep.

This story was originally published March 11, 2020 10:15 PM.

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