CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Goran Dragic scored 33 points, and the Miami Heat made 21 3-pointers to beat the Charlotte Hornets 112-99 on Wednesday night and pull back into a tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
James Johnson shot 6 of 7 from 3-point range and had 26 points, while Hassan Whiteside had a strong second half and finished with 13 points and 20 rebounds as the Heat dealt a near-fatal blow to Charlotte’s playoff hopes. The loss drops the 10th place Hornets 2 ½ games behind the Heat and Indiana Pacers with three games remaining.
Miami holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Indiana for the final spot in the East.
The 21 3-pointers tied the most ever allowed in by the Hornets in franchise history.
The Heat broke open a tight game in the third quarter, building a 17-point lead behind Dragic and Whiteside.
Whiteside hadn’t scored and only had seven rebounds when he got into an altercation early in the third quarter. The 7-foot center threw an elbow in the direction of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, although in never landed. Cody Zeller stepped in to break things up, but a frustrated Whiteside shoved Zeller away, earning a technical.
But the incident seemed to ignite Whiteside and the Heat, who went on a 14-0 run. Whiteside had six points during that span, including a monster left-handed dunk, and dominated on the glass.
The Hornets never recovered.
Nic Batum led Charlotte with 24 points, while All-Star Kemba Walker had 18 points on 6-of-17 shooting. Marvin Williams had 15 points and 12 rebound for the Hornets (36-43).
Heat: Have won 22 of the last 28 games vs. Charlotte and have not lost a season series to the Hornets since the 2009-10 season.
Hornets: There was seemingly more elbow room on the Charlotte bench without 7-footer Patrick Ewing taking up real estate. Ewing left to become the head coach of Georgetown earlier this week. … Williams made a three-quarters court shot to beat the buzzer at halftime and cut Miami’s lead to 52-51. … Marco Belinelli left in the second quarter with a strained left index finger and did not return.
Heat: Travel to Toronto for an important game Friday night against the Raptors.
Hornets: Host the Celtics on Saturday night in their final regular-season home game of the season.
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