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Wade, Dragic propel Heat past Hornets

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The two combined for 22 of Miami’s 32 fourth-quarter points.

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

When the Miami Heat faced the Charlotte Hornets in the first round of the 2016 playoffs, the starting backcourt of Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic helped Miami overcome a 3-2 series deficit. Wade hit big shots on the road to force a Game 6 — the infamous “Purple Shirt Guy” game — and Dragic scored 25 points in Game 7.

Now, they’re both playing off the bench. But with Justise Winslow out and Josh Richardson struggling, the two guards propelled the Heat towards a huge win.

Wade and Dragic combined for 22 of Miami’s 32 points in the fourth quarter, when the Heat turned a tight slugfest into a blowout game. Charlotte only mustered 15 points in the final period, and the Heat won 93-75 to move two games ahead of the Hornets for the eighth playoff seed.

Miami held a one-point lead entering the final stanza of play, at 61-60 (it was 39-all at the half, to give you a sense of how the game looked through three quarters). Early in the fourth, Wade went to his signature Euro-step for an and-one opportunity to push the Heat up 67-60.

A few minutes later, Miami held a 10-point lead. Wade blocked a shot from Dwayne Bacon, igniting a fast-break opportunity that resulted in a 3-pointer from the three-time NBA champion.

Wade finished with 17 points off the bench on 6-of-14 shooting from the field to go along with eight rebounds. Twelve of Wade’s points came in the fourth quarter, with Dragic supplying 10. Dragic finished with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field, including 4-of-6 from downtown.

Erik Spoelstra stuck with Dragic, Wade, Josh Richardson and James Johnson for the fourth quarter. He subbed in Bam Adebayo for Hassan Whiteside midway through the period. Johnson played for the first time in 11 games as a result of the thigh bruise for Winslow. And Johnson played strong defense and found Dragic for two of his key fourth-quarter 3-pointers. As someone who has struggled this season, it must have felt good for Johnson to have his number called and contribute to a big win for his team.

Adebayo was the Heat’s best player in the first half. (You decide if that says more about him or his teammates.) Adebayo scored 12 of his 16 points before halftime, adding nine rebounds and active defense. Look at this play from the second quarter — Adebayo blocks a shot from Bismack Biyombo and leads a fast break all on his own.

Although he didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter, Dion Waiters made four huge 3-pointers in the third period. The Heat had just made two 3-pointers in the entire first half, and Miami struggled against a Hornets zone defense that crowded the paint area to force outside shots. Waiters’ 3s helped open up the Charlotte defense.

And Miami played smothering defense on Kemba Walker, a player who averages more than 25 points per game but only put up 10 Sunday. The Heat aggressively trapped Walker on the perimeter, and he had trouble finding a clean look at the basket. Josh Richardson had an abysmal offensive performance, but his length helped to bottle up Walker.

The Heat will visit the Oklahoma City Thunder Monday night at 8 p.m.