Injury-Plagued Heat Face Suddenly Hot Hornets

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CHARLOTTE (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – The Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets are teams moving in very opposite directions right now.

The Hornets have put a mid-December funk behind them and look for their fifth victory in six games when they host the Heat on Thursday.

Charlotte’s four-game losing streak raised concerns, but it has responded by averaging 113 points over its last five contests.

The Hornets matched their second-highest scoring output of the season on Wednesday, when they led by 29 points after three quarters en route to a 120-101 road victory over Orlando.

“We maintained a full 48 minutes,” guard Kemba Walker told reporters. “We didn’t play in spurts too much. Offensively, we were really good. We moved the ball, we made the extra pass and we made shots.”

Miami is spiraling in the wrong direction with five losses in their last six games and possesses the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference.

Center Hassan Whiteside has struggled offensively in the last two games, averaging 11 points on 8-of-21 shooting after averaging 26 on 32-of-47 shooting over his previous three contests.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Sun (Miami), FSN Southeast (Charlotte)

ABOUT THE HEAT (10-22): Point guard Goran Dragic made the trip despite sitting out Tuesday’s loss to Oklahoma City due to back spasms, and a decision on whether or not he plays against the Hornets will be made Thursday.

With Miami’s season going nowhere, speculation has begun that Dragic is being shopped, and he certainly is one of the club’s better bargaining chips in terms of what it could receive in a trade.

The 30-year-old Dragic leads Miami in scoring (19.3 points) and assists (6.6) while shooting a team-best 42 percent from 3-point range.

ABOUT THE HORNETS (18-14): Shooting guard Nicolas Batum put forth a stellar performance against the Magic with 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

Batum has scored 20 or more points in four straight games and six of his last seven after reaching 20 just twice over his first 24 contests.

Reserve shooting guard Marco Belinelli (ankle) likely will miss his third straight game on Thursday, meaning Jeremy Lamb (15.5 points over the last two contests) again will be Batum’s main backup.

BUZZER BEATERS

  1. The Hornets overcame a 19-point, third-quarter deficit to post a 97-91 victory over the Heat on Oct. 28.
  2. Walker scored 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting against Orlando for his third 20-point effort in four games.
  3. Miami backup F Josh McRoberts (foot) is out indefinitely.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Sports Direct Inc. contributed to this report.)

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