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10:00 AM PT11:00 AM MT12:00 PM CT1:00 PM ET17:00 GMT1:00 10:00 AM MST12:00 PM EST21:00 UAE18:0013:00 ET11:00 AM CT16:00 , March 17, 2019
AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, Florida  Attendance: 19,600

Heat host Hornets as playoff race intensifies

The Miami Heat are probably talking about the one that got away Friday night, but the club's attention has to turn to its primary matter at hand at this point of the season.

Staying in the playoff picture.

The Heat (32-36) dropped just their third game in their last nine outings on Friday, and the chance to bolster playoff standings presents itself again on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET when they host the Charlotte Hornets at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Miami wasted a sizzling, energetic start, leading by as many as 23 points over the Milwaukee Bucks in the first half. Miami led 62-42 at halftime, and the Bucks were 1-100 all-time when trailing by 20 or more at the break.

Then the second half happened.

The Bucks, the NBA's overall top team, lit it up from long distance and clamped down Miami's offense in the final two quarters, outscoring the Heat 71-46 on the way a 113-98 win in South Florida.

Miami lost for the fourth time in club history when leading by 20 or more at the half and were previously 51-0 at home in that scenario.

"First of all, you've got to credit the Bucks, they're a very good basketball team," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra of the collapse. "They really stepped up their defense and made it tough for us to generate much on our initial attack.

"They were switching (defenses) and trying to get us to slow down, and it worked for the most part. We've been much better against that scheme before."

But Spoelstra also singled out his team's second-half focus, saying: "The management of our emotional energy and inability to stay present...I think that probably hurt us the most. 1/8The Bucks 3/8 took advantage of that."

Miami leads the Orlando Magic and Charlotte by just one game in the Eastern Conference playoff standings - with the No. 8 seed likely to face the Bucks in the first round of the postseason.

While the Heat were coming up short against Milwaukee, Charlotte (31-37) took advantage of Miami having to face the NBA's best - the 52-17 Bucks - and played a solid game in a 116-110 victory over the Wizards in Washington on Friday night.

And the biggest asset going for the Hornets may have been some much-needed rest and time off.

"We worked on a few things and I think you saw it carry over to tonight," said Hornets coach James Borrego. "I think it was more of a refresher for our bodies, our minds.

"Got our spirits right and I thought we came out and competed tonight."

Charlotte used fresh legs after three days off, plus Kemba Walker's 28 points, to score 40 points in the first quarter and beat Washington for the second time in eight days.

Jeremy Lamb had 18 points, and Nicolas Batum and Tony Parker each had 16. Charlotte's reserves scored 57 points and second-year bench player Dwayne Bacon was a key figure again, scoring 13 points for the second straight game.

The Hornets, who led by 17 entering the fourth quarter, withstood a late charge by the Wizards, who trimmed to the lead to five, to win the season series 3-1 over Washington and stay within a game of the Heat.

--Field Level Media

Updated March 16, 2019

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