MIAMI (AP) — Goran Dragic scored 28 points, his most since coming to Miami in a February trade, and the Heathelped their playoff chances by topping the Charlotte Hornets 105-100 on Tuesday night.
Luol Deng scored 21 for the Heat, who snapped a four-game losing streak. Dwyane Wade had 19 and Hassan Whiteside added 12 on 6-for-8 shooting for Miami.
Gerald Henderson led the Hornets with 29 points. Kemba Walker scored 17, Mo Williams had 15, Bismack Biyombo had a 12-point, 12-rebound night, and Marvin Williams grabbed 13 rebounds for Charlotte.
Down 11 early in the fourth, Charlotte trimmed the deficit to three on three occasions — surely bringing back memories of how Miami wasted a 15-point late lead in what became a 99-98 loss at Detroit on Saturday.
The Heat hung on this time.
Dragic — whose previous Miami high was 23 — answered with baskets the first two times that Charlotte got within three, and then the left-handed guard just about sealed it with a pullup jumper that pushed Miami's lead to 99-91 with 1:37 left.
Henderson made a 3-pointer to cut Miami's lead to 103-100, before Dragic added two free throws with 7.5 seconds left to cap his 11-point fourth.
Miami moved within a half-game of eighth-place Boston for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"We were talking before the game, this was a playoff game. ... Tonight was a must-win for us," Dragic said.
The Hornets remained 11th in the East — now two games back of Boston — and won't have center Al Jefferson for at least one more game. Jefferson sat again Tuesday with right knee pain and has already been ruled out for Wednesday's home game with Toronto.
"Like most teams, we had a busy March. We played 17 games in 30 days and he didn't want to sit out," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "So I think it just progressively got worse. Now he's trying to rest it and see if he can go maybe this weekend."
Charlotte led by eight early, Miami answered with a 27-9 run that put the Heat on top by 10, and ultimately nothing was decided in the first half. The teams went into intermission knotted at 55, their 11th tie after a half that also included 10 lead changes.
Then the Hornets scored the first six of the third quarter, forcing the Heat into a quick time-out. But just as they did in the opening minutes, the Heat responded — going up by as many as 13 later in the third before taking an 82-75 lead into the fourth.
Hornets: Besides Jefferson, the Hornets were again without Cody Zeller (right shoulder) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (left ankle). The Hornets are 6-16 when Kidd-Gilchrist cannot play. ... Charlotte's remaining five games are home for Toronto, at Atlanta, at Detroit, home for Houston and at Toronto. ... The Hornets are 15-4 when holding opponents under 90, and 18-40 otherwise.
Heat: Miami is 14-0 when scoring at least 105 points. ... Deng made his 700th career start, the 28th active player to reach that plateau. ... It was the first of a four-game homestand for the Heat. Miami has only one more road game — the finale next Wednesday at Philadelphia. ... Michael Beasley (illness) was not available Tuesday.
With his 19 points, Wade is now 36 away from former Heat assistant coach and current scout Bob McAdoo (18,787) for 54th on the NBA's career scoring list. Wade started the season 72nd on that list.
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