The Charlotte Hornets won perhaps their most consequential game of this regular season.
Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade missed a 3-pointer as time expired, giving the Hornets a 109-106 victory at American Airlines Arena. The win further tightened up the race for playoff seedings in the Eastern Conference, moving the Hornets into a tie with the Heat at 39-29.
Jeremy Lin made four pressure free throws in the last minute to retain the lead.
Had the Heat won this game they would have won the season series 3-1, clinching a tiebreaker.
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The Heat sent Marvin Williams to the foul line with 14.6 seconds left. Williams missed both to give the Heat possession down three. Wade scored on a drive, then the Heat fouled Jeremy Lin, who made both attempts with 9.7 seconds left.
Wade again scored on a drive and the Heat again fouled Lin. Luol Deng, who was called for the foul, suffered a facial injury in the collision with Lin. Lin again made both to push the lead back to three with 3.8 seconds left.
The Hornets got possession in the last minute up five when Williams played strong defense on Deng, who front-rimmed a running jump shot.
The Hornets trailed in the first half by as many as 15 points before Kemba Walker’s 13-point second quarter gave them a two-point lead going into halftime.
The Hornets return to Charlotte for two more home games, Saturday versus the Denver Nuggets and Monday against the San Antonio Spurs.
Three who mattered
Walker: His 13 second-quarter points were crucial to getting the Hornets back in the game.
Jefferson: He started the second half in place of the injured Cody Zeller and did good work against shot blocker Hassan Whiteside.
Deng: Former Duke star was a brutal matchup problem at power forward for Hornets rookie Frank Kaminsky.
▪ The Heat pursued forward Marvin Williams two summers ago before the Hornets signed him. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was asked about Williams pregame: “I’m a fan of him. He’s a high-quality pro.”
▪ Hornets coach Steve Clifford said pregame the last meeting with the Heat was probably the Hornets’ worst game of the season as far as working the ball into the lane offensively. Not coincidentally, Gastonia’s Hassan Whiteside had 10 blocks for Miami that night.
▪ Clifford made sure to remind the players pregame of the stakes involved in Thursday’s game. No wonder: Through Wednesday’s games No. 3 Miami was separated from No. 6 Charlotte by a single game.
▪ Walker is one of four players in the NBA this season to have totaled at least 1,400 points, 300 assists, 200 rebounds, 100 3-pointers and 100 steals. The others: Stephen Curry, James Harden and Kyle Lowry.
▪ Williams hit a career best for rebounds in a season Thursday. Think about that: In his 10th season. He’s playing so well.
▪ Zeller sat out the second half with a sore left knee. That moved Tyler Hansbrough into the rotation.
▪ Hornets playoff tickets go on sale to the general public Monday at 10 a.m.
▪ Bizarre stat: Early in this game the Hornets were 5-of-5 from 3-point range, but 1-of-10 from 2-point range.
B+ OFFENSE: They made a ton of 3s, which compensated for some struggles finishing at the rim.
B DEFENSE: They contained Dwyane Wade fairly well, but left open a bunch of 3-pointers.
B COACHING: Steve Clifford was up against a lot between the second game of a back-to-back and the loss of Zeller.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell