This playoff series ended the way it started -- with a blowout Charlotte Hornets loss in Miami.
Game 7 was all Heat, which led by 32 points early in the fourth quarter of a 106-73 closeout game at American Airlines Arena.
The Heat won Game 1 by 32 points. In between, the Hornets showed the persistence to take a 3-2 series lead heading into Game 6. But the Heat won the past two games to advance to a second-round series with either the Toronto Raptors or Indiana Pacers.
As has been the case for much of this series, the Hornets struggled to rebound effectively, particularly when Miami center Hassan Whiteside was in the game.
More surprising was how Heat point guard Goran Dragic outplayed Hornets counterpart Kemba Walker.
This was just the second Game 7 in Charlotte NBA history. The Hornets also lost a Game 7 in 2001 to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Three who mattered
Whiteside: He controlled the lane defensively without a hint of foul trouble.
Dragic: A shock just how thoroughly he dominated Walker.
Luol Deng: He consistently set the tone for the Heat throughout this playoff series.
▪ In a bit of a surprise, reserve center Spencer Hawes was activated for the Hornets. Hawes was projected to be out at least a week with a sprained right knee.
▪ Hornets coach Steve Clifford confirmed that associate head coach Patrick Ewing will interview for the Sacramento Kings’ head coach opening.
▪ Heat reserve guard Josh Richardson was cleared to play, despite suffering a left shoulder strain in Friday’s Game 6.
▪ Clifford was asked about a report by ESPN’s Marc Stein that Heat executives complained to the NBA office about calls favoring the Hornets. Clifford said neither team has reason to complain, but certainly not the Heat based on Last Two Minute Officiating reports filed by the NBA.
▪ The Heat had nearly as many offensive rebounds in the first quarter (six) as the Hornets had total rebounds (seven).
▪ Hornets center-forward Tyler Hansbrough missed the game with due to back spasms.
▪ Nic Batum started the second half in place of Frank Kaminsky.
▪ Clifford said postgame that Marvin Williams had an elbow injury on his shooting arm that hindered him throughout the series.
They said it
“We (had) a chance to beat this team and win the series two days ago. We didn’t do it because (Dwyane) Wade was amazing two days ago.” – Hornets small forward Nic Batum.
“We stopped moving the ball and (Hassan) Whiteside is a beast inside.” – Batum on the Hornets’ offensively woes Sunday.
“The only thing we can do is learn from it. We’re going to get better and stronger next year.” – Batum on the future in Charlotte.
D OFFENSE: There was little or no dribble penetration and the Hornets reacted poorly to the Heat’s double-teaming and switching.
D DEFENSE: Constantly let the Heat grab offensive rebounds and convert for second-chance points.
C- COACHING: This team was so flat in such a huge game.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell