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Heat put away Hornets, 105-100, on Josh Richardson’s career night in Miami

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Richardson and Waiters combined for 46 points to dig Miami out of an early 16-1 hole in the first quarter.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Heat looked pitiful for the first 6:15 minutes as they trailed the Charlotte Hornets 16-1 at that point. Then Josh Richardson scored a basket for Miami’s first lead, 44-43, and he never looked back to wind up with a career-and-team high 27 points for the game.

With the win Miami climbed back to .500 at 11-11, only one loss behind the Washington Wizards for 7th place.

The first period was best forgotten for Heat starters not named Richardson, as they went a combined 0-12 from the floor in those 12 minutes. At its mid-point visions of another 7-point first period, like the one in Chicago, seemed very real. However the bench players came to rescue and kept the game competitive, scoring 13 out of Miami’s first 22 points. The Heat trailed only 30-22 after the opening stanza.

With 2:43 left in the half Richardson made a dunk to give Miami its first lead of the game and the Heat went into intermission leading 50-49. In third and fourth quarters the teams traded baskets, turnovers, fouls, with neither one trailing by more than 4 points, until the last two minutes.

Hornets had their last lead at 96-95 on a pair of free throws by Michael-Carter Williams . Goran Dragic made a jumper and Miami ran off 9 unanswered points to take command at 104-96, with 46 seconds left in the contest.

As usual, Neon Dion lit it up late for a dagger 3.

With Hassan Whiteside out, the game tested the team’s fortitude, which it’ll need for the next two weeks or more. Miami caught a break with Kemba Walker out and Dwight Howard limited to 17 minutes, when he collected his fifth foul in the third period. Charlotte’s starters were +1. Their 4 bench players lost the game with a -26 point differential, i.e. -6 points per player, while on the floor.

Richardson was the only Miami starter who was a plus: the other four were a total of -36, or -9 each, during the game. The 4 bench players were a combined +54 points, i.e. +14 each, to pull out the 5-point win for the Heat (14-9=5). The reserves shot 16 for 29 (55%) and 7 for 17 (41%) from downtown.

The evening belonged to Josh Richardson, as he made basket after important basket to keep the Heat within striking distance. He had a well-rounded game with 27 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block, 2 turnovers. Since Miami turned the ball over 21 times, and committed 24 fouls, the team needed someone to step up when needed.

Justise Winslow picked up the rebounding slack for the Heat with 11 boards. Dion Waiters (19 pts), Kelly Olynyk (10 pts), Tyler Johnson (12 pts) and Wayne Ellington (14 pts) all had double digit scoring nights. As a whole the 49% (40% 3-pt) shooting and 25 assists made up for the team’s otherwise slippery fingers when handling the ball.

A nerve-wracking, but eventually satisfying win, it evened up the Heat’s home record at 5-5. Next up, the Golden State Warriors make their only visit to Miami on Sunday at 7 PM. Both Heat fans and players will be pumped up for that showdown in South Beach.