By Steve Reed
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Steve Clifford has seen that look in Kemba Walker’s eye. It tells the Charlotte coach to just give the point guard the ball and let him go.
Walker responded, like he’s done so many times before.
Walker had 11 straight Charlotte points during a crucial stretch midway through the fourth quarter and finished with a playoff career-high 34 points to lead the Hornets to an 89-85 victory over the Miami Heat on Monday night, evening the first-round series at 2-2.
“He’s so confident late in games that he will make the play,” Clifford said.
The smallest player on the floor at 6-foot-1, Walker finished 13 of 28 from the field.
“Throughout my career I have made big plays – that is what I’m known for,” Walker said. “Tonight was a good example of it.”
Jeremy Lin finished with 21 points and Courtney Lee sank two free throws with 4.6 seconds left to seal the win after being fouled on an offensive rebound.
Lin, who kept Charlotte in the game in the first half, said it was fun just watching Walker from the corner – and taking a breather – down the stretch.
“I told Kemba to take us home,” Lin said. “It’s on you.”
Game 5 is Wednesday night in Miami.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called Walker “dynamic.”
“He’s a handful in the pick-and-rolls and there is only so much you can do with that little guy,” Dwyane Wade said. “He’s crafty. … And every time we tried to make a comeback, he hit a big shot.”
Lin also was a handful too, maneuvering his body in the lane to draw fouls and get to the line. He finished 8 of 9 on free throw attempts.
“Walker and Lin, they put you on your heels,” Spoelstra said. “They are aggressive and make you have to defend with position. You have to expect that in the playoffs – great performances.”
Lee finished with 11 points and helped hold Wade to 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting.
“We fought so hard tonight,” Lin said. “Up 18 and then all of sudden up one. We put everything out there and I’m glad we got the win.”
Joe Johnson led Miami with 16 points, while Luol Deng had 15.
Charlotte dominated in the paint for the second straight game, outscoring Miami 44-30.
Miami trailed by as many as 18 in the second half, but pulled to 76-75 when Gerald Green knocked down a 3-pointer from the left wing with 6:07 left in regulation.
Walker took over from there.
The runner-up for the league’s Most Improved Player buried a pull-up jumper from 18 feet and sank both foul shots after drawing a fourth foul on Wade on a drive. Walker made a 3-pointer from the left wing, added a floater in the lane and another pull-up jumper to push the lead to 87-80.
The Heat kept battling back, though, with Wade’s jumper and a free throw by Hassan Whiteside cutting it to two.
The Hornets nearly squandered their last possession, but Walker threw up a desperation 3-pointer to beat the shot clock that hit the front rim. Lee went for the rebound and was fouled. He swished both shots to make it a two-possession game.
Lin again provided a big spark with 11 points in the first half, helping ignite a 23-6 run.
“He was the one who kept us in the game and got us going,” Clifford said. “… His great strength is the ability to drive the ball and get it off into the paint.”
The Heat trailed by 18 in the second half, but responded with a 17-1 run, though they could never regain the lead.
“It’s tough to overcome that (deficit) on the road,” Wade said.
Heat: Won the previous two games in this series at home by an average margin of 22 points. … Wade left the floor to have his ankle re-taped in the third quarter but didn’t miss any of his planned playing time. He said he’s fine.
Hornets: The Hornets held Miami to 13 second-quarter points … Were 25 of 30 from the foul line.
BATUM NOT READY
Nicolas Batum missed his second straight game with a strained foot and his status for Game 5 remains in question. Clifford said before the game Batum’s foot is “very, very weak.”
SEEN AT THE GAME
Several of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers were at the game showing their support to city’s crosstown NBA team, including linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, running back Jonathan Stewart, wide receiver Devin Funchess and coach Ron Rivera.
North Carolina men’s basketball coach Roy Williams was also at the game, along with former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo.
LIN’S BANK SHOT
Lin knocked in a bank shot on a 3-pointer in the second half and shrugged his shoulders like Michael Jordan as he ran back down the court.
“That was kind of ‘Angels in the Outfield’ type of shot,” Lin said with a laugh. “I thought it had no chance of going in.”
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