Hornets top Heat 109-106, rallying from 15-point deficit

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MIAMI (AP) — Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker each scored 21 points, and the Charlotte Hornets overcame a 15-point first-half deficit to beat the Miami Heat 109-106 on Thursday night.

Nic Batum scored 19 for the Hornets, who split four games with Miami this season and now have the same 39-29 record as the Heat in the jampacked Eastern Conference playoff chase. The Hornets are now 15-3 in their last 18 games.

Charlotte trailed 45-30 in the second quarter, then took the lead by halftime and held it for most of the second half. Courtney Lee had 13 and Marvin Williams scored 12 for the Hornets.

Luol Deng led the Heat with 22 points. It was the 10th time this season that Miami lost a game in which it led at one point by double figures, with six of those coming at home.

Charlotte led by six with 3:24 left, but couldn’t shake the Heat.

Dwyane Wade started 1 for 10 from the floor, but made a pair of layups in the final seconds – each getting Miami within a point. Charlotte’s Jeremy Lin got sent to the foul line after each of those baskets by Wade and went 4 for 4 from the stripe in those moments, the last of those coming with 3.8 seconds left to restore the Hornets’ three-point lead.

And that would be enough, as Wade’s 3-pointer with a second left missed.

Josh Richardson scored 18, Hassan Whiteside had 17, Goran Dragic finished with 16 and Joe Johnson added 13 for Miami.

Miami used a 12-0 run to take the 15-point lead at the exact midpoint of the second quarter, and every bit of it was gone by halftime. Walker had 13 points in less than 5 minutes to fuel what became a 24-7 burst by the Hornets to close the half, including a 3-pointer that sent them into the locker room with a 54-52 lead.

The Heat briefly had the lead twice in the third, but a 13-5 run to close that quarter sent Charlotte into the final 12 minutes with an 82-73 edge.

In the fourth, Whiteside and Richardson either scored or had the assist on the first six Miami baskets. Richardson – who is averaging 15.8 points in his last five games on 66 percent shooting, including 15-for-21 from 3-point range – made a 3 to get the Heat within 91-90 midway through the fourth, but Charlotte would not lose the lead at any point in the final quarter.

TIP-INS

Hornets: Charlotte lost starting C Cody Zeller at halftime with left knee soreness. Zeller played 14 minutes before the break, scoring six points and grabbing three rebounds. He made his last three shots from the floor. Jefferson started the second half in his place. … The Hornets are now 11-3 with Lee as a starter.

Heat: Miami reached 100 points for the ninth consecutive game. … Richardson made 7 of his 9 shots. … Wade scored 11 points, getting him within 13 of 20,000 for his career. … A trio of former Miami Hurricane football standouts – Stephen Morris, Jon Feliciano and Ryan Williams – were in attendance, seated near the Heat bench.

BOSH’S TWINS

Chris Bosh, who was on the Heat bench Monday for the first time since a blood clot forced him away from the court in February, was not with his team Thursday night – for a good reason. Bosh and his wife Adrienne welcomed twin sons on Tuesday. The boys, Lennox Noel and Phoenix Avery, met their three siblings for the first time on Thursday.

DOWN THE STRETCH

Charlotte’s schedule for the rest of the season seems favorable. Of the Hornets’ last 14 games, as few as four could be against teams that actually make the playoffs. And the Hornets still have a total of four games left to play against Brooklyn and Philadelphia, the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference. That being said, nine of Charlotte’s last 12 are on the road.