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CHARLOTTE (SportsDirect Inc.) — The Charlotte Hornets showed they are a serious playoff contender again last time out and look to climb back to the .500 mark for the first time in more than a month when the Miami Heat visit on Friday night.

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The Hornets knocked off Eastern Conference-leader Cleveland 106-97 on Wednesday without leading scorer Kemba Walker (knee).

Walker, who is averaging 20.2 points, is questionable to return against the Heat as Charlotte goes after its third straight win and sixth in eight games.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has made a big impact with two double-doubles in three games since returning from injury for the Hornets, who will face an equally hot Miami squad.

The Heat have won five of their last six contests and got center Hassan Whiteside (oblique strain) back from injury in the 93-90 victory at Dallas on Wednesday.

Miami recovered from giving up a season-high 115 points in a loss to Houston by holding Dallas to 39.1 percent shooting and veteran guard Dwyane Wade told reporters, “We’ve done a good job lately of learning from our mistakes.”

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

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ABOUT THE HEAT (28-22): While Chris Bosh (19.1 points, 7.5 rebounds) and Wade (18.7 points, 4.7 assists) have been producing all season, Miami needs the contributions of Whiteside among others to achieve its goals. Whiteside averages a double-double and contributed 10 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in the victory over Dallas. Small forward Luol Deng has lifted his game of late, averaging 16.3 points and making 23-of-47 shots from the field over the past four outings.

ABOUT THE HORNETS (24-25): Guard Jeremy Lin stepped up in Walker’s absence with 24 points against Cleveland as Charlotte shot 49.4 percent from the field and dominated on the boards (49-28). Kidd-Gilchrist’s return from a shoulder injury has given the Hornets a boost as the versatile forward is averaging 14.7 points and 10.7 rebounds. Forward Marvin Williams is also playing a big role in the team’s improvement over the past few weeks while averaging 17.7 points in a five-game span.


1. The Heat stood second in the league in scoring defense (95.8) and sixth in field goal percentage against (43.7) through Wednesday.

2. Charlotte G Nicolas Batum, who has been hampered by a toe injury, is just 6-of-28 from the field over his last three games.

3. The teams have split a pair of games this season with the Hornets winning 99-81 at home on Dec. 9.

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