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MIAMI (SportsDirect Inc.) — The Charlotte Hornets came within one win of advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals last season but were crushed 106-73 in Game 7 at the Miami Heat.

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The Hornets will get an early chance to erase some of that pain when they take on a much different Heat roster in a visit to Miami on Friday.

Joe Johnson, Luol Deng, Dwyane Wade and Gerald Green combined for 52 points in the Heat’s Game 7 win last season, and all departed in the offseason as the franchise rebuilt around center Hassan Whiteside and point guard Goran Dragic.

Those two looked right at home in leading a younger roster to a 108-96 win in the season opener at Orlando on Wednesday.

Charlotte returned a bigger portion of its roster from last spring but believes it is better in part because small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is fully healthy and ready to take some of the scoring load off Kemba Walker’s shoulders.

Kidd-Gilchrist breezed to a team-high 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting to go with 14 rebounds in the Hornets’ 107-96 win at Milwaukee to open the season on Wednesday.

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TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN Southeast (Charlotte), FSN Sun (Miami)

ABOUT THE HORNETS (1-0): The biggest piece Charlotte added after last season is right in the middle with veteran center Roy Hibbert, who is trying to resurrect his career back in the Eastern Conference. The 29-year-old delivered 15 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in his team debut and impressed his new teammates. “He’s such a security blanket back there,” forward Marvin Williams told the Charlotte Observer of Hibbert. “You know if you get beaten, there’s always someone back there to cover for you. It makes you more confident to take chances.”

ABOUT THE HEAT (1-0): Miami handed the keys to the franchise to Whiteside with a four-year, $98.4 million contract over the summer and he did nothing to suggest he would coast on the new deal while posting 18 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks in 31 minutes on Wednesday. The departures of Wade, Deng and Johnson allowed Justice Winslow to slide into the starting lineup, and the second-year small forward from Duke added 15 points and eight boards alongside Whiteside. Dion Waiters and 24-year-old Tyler Johnson are also in line for bigger roles in the backcourt.


1. Dragic, who scored 25 points in the Game 7 win last spring, put up 16 points in the opener.

2. Hornets C Frank Kaminsky (foot) sat out the opener and is questionable for Friday.

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3. Charlotte won in its last regular-season trip to Miami, earning a 109-106 victory on March 17.