The Miami Heat dropped Thursday's critical game to the Charlotte Hornets by a final score of 109-106 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Charlotte took a nine-point lead into the fourth quarter and fought off multiple runs by Miami. The Heat closed the gap to within three points with 14 seconds to go, but Charlotte was able to seal the win. Miami had cut the deficit to three multiple times during the final quarter, but the Hornets quickly answered each time.
This was an important game for Miami in terms of playoff positioning. The Heat entered the game three slots ahead of Charlotte, despite only being one game better. The Eastern Conference is very tight with less than six games being the difference between the third seed, and the ninth seed. With the loss, the Hornets and Heat are now tied and mixed up in the middle of the standings.
Luol Deng led Miami's scoring with 22 points to go along with nine rebounds. Deng has enjoyed a very successful second half of the season, which has been needed desperately by Miami. The Heat continue to play without the services of Chris Bosh, and have seen their other veterans step up when it matters most.
Josh Richardson continued to shine with 18 points oft the bench. Richardson was a big reason for Miami's comeback try during the fourth quarter, but simply did not receive enough help down the stretch. Richardson found himself in foul trouble which hampered his ability to do even more as well.
Hassan Whiteside had a relatively quiet night by his standards with 17 points and seven rebounds. It was a rare game without a double-double for the young center. Whiteside also contributed one block while coming off the bench once again.
The Heat will host LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday evening. Unlike his last visit to Miami, James will reportedly play in this one.