Miami Heat 99, Orlando Magic 98

Although the Orlando Magic were unable to defeat the Miami Heat last night, losing by the score of 99-98 on a game-winning dunk by Michael Beasley with 1.6 seconds left, there's no question that this contest will go down as an instant classic between two in-state division rivals that have had some memorable games in the past. Amway Arena was rockin' as the game progressed, Vince Carter and Dwyane Wade engaged in a battle of one-upsmanship in the fourth quarter, controversy ensued once the final horn sounded - a jambalaya of factors that produced a memorable evening for a fan of either team.

 

Wade had a pedestrian game for his standards, finishing with 24 points (6-22 FG, 1-5 3PT, 11-11 FT). The backcourt of Carter and Jason Williams was outstanding, as both players combined for 47 points. For Williams, it was his best game in a Magic uniform so far in the year, as he scored a game-high/season-high 25 points (9-12 FG, 4-6 3PT) and had 8 assists on only 1 turnover. A fantastic performance that will unfortunately be overshadowed by the fact that Williams missed two free-throws in the final seconds of the fourth quarter that could have extended an Orlando lead to three as Miami was attempting to come back and win (eventually succeeding in doing so). Not the reason for the loss, though.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Heat 88 112.0 42.4% 31.8 31.9 9.1
Magic 93 105.8 50.6% 26.0 22.2 16.2
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.

The Magic came out of the gates rather slow in the first quarter, as it seemed like the Heat were playing at a different speed, especially Wade. Although Wade seemed content to get his teammates involved on offense, he was making his presence felt on defense - blocking a shot on Mickael Pietrus as he tried to go up for a layup on the fast break, stealing the ball from Dwight Howard as he was getting ready to receive it in the post, playing great defense on Rashard Lewis as he was trying to post him up, etc. Conversely, Orlando wasn't playing smart enough on the defensive end of the floor sometimes. Two quick examples: on one possession, Carter didn't close out quick enough on James Jones as he made a three and on another possession, Carter closed out too hard on Jones as he made a three and subsequently converted on a rare four-point play. The effort seemed to favor Miami at the onset and that was a sign of things to come later in the game.

 

What bailed the Magic out in the first half, more often than not, was its three-point shooting. Quite simply, Orlando couldn't miss, whether it was Williams (4), Pietrus (3), Carter (2), Anderson (3), Barnes (1), or Lewis (1). They all made threes, and in bunches (made attempts in parentheses). The Magic weren't doing anything extravagant on offense, the team was just executing its sets and making its shots. Simple as that.

 

But there were two concerns once the second quarter ended. First, despite the torrid shooting from beyond the arc, Orlando had trouble converting on two-point field goals (6-23, 22.2%). Second, Wade only had four points on eight shot attempts. One would figure that Wade would wake up sooner or later. And he did, naturally.

 

In the third quarter, the Magic were able to take control of the game, no thanks in large part to the heroics of one player. Jason Williams. Whether it was jumpers off the dribble, threes in the corner or off the catch, Williams could do no wrong in the period on the offensive side of the ball. All at the expense of Mario Chalmers and Carlos Arroyo, two players that could do nothing but watch as Williams drilled jumpshots left and right. Williams continued to play well in the fourth quarter, assisting Anderson on a few threes. Anderson, himself, did a great job in the period by giving Orlando instant offense off the bench - 9 points (12 total), to be exact. 

 

After Anderson converted on a three-point play, the Magic were up 86-75 and seemed to be in cruise control. The defense was good, up to that point, and Wade was mostly a non-factor offensively. But as I stated two paragraphs earlier, one would figure Wade would wake up sooner or later. And he did, naturally.

 

Once the Heat came out of its timeout with 7:54 remaining in the contest, Wade took over. For roughly the next three minutes, Miami went on a 16-0 run and Wade had his fingerprints on every single point.

 

FOURTH QUARTER

- [7:24] Wade makes free throw 1 of 2

- Wade makes free throw 2 of 2

- [7:03] Haslem dunk (Wade assist)

- [6:39] Wade makes free throw 1 of 2

- Wade makes free throw 2 of 2

- [6:16] Wade, three-point 27' jump shot

- [5:52] Wade, 22' jump shot

- [5:33] Wade makes free throw 1 of 2

- Wade makes free throw 2 of 2

- [5:03] Wade makes free throw 1 of 3

- Wade makes free throw 2 of 3 

- Wade makes free throw 3 of 3

 

By the time Wade was done doing his damage, the Heat took a 91-86 lead with 4:50 left to go in the game. It is here where Carter went to work, connecting on two free-throws and a jumper to bring Orlando back to within three. After it took Howard five tries to make two free-throws, the Magic were able to tie the game at 95 apiece with 19 seconds remaining. Head coach Stan Van Gundy called a 20 second timeout to setup a play but unfortunately for Orlando, Pietrus was unable to inbound the ball, which forced the team to burn its final timeout of the contest (this would come back to haunt the team). Van Gundy astutely subbed in Barnes to inbound the ball - which he did successfully - and in turn, create the Magic's first dramatic moment of the regular season. With the shot clock winding down, Carter found himself with the ball off a pass from Lewis and proceeded to nail a clutch three to put Orlando up by three at 98-95.

 

Although Wade missed a game-tying three in the corner in front of the Magic bench a few seconds later, Udonis Haslem was able to tip-in the shot to cut the lead to one. On the ensuing possession, Williams was intentionally fouled and rimmed out both free-throws, thus giving Miami a chance to win the game. Everyone in the building knew that Wade was going to get the ball and he did, surprisingly air-balling the shot due to excellent defense by Pietrus, but Beasley was able to make a put-back slam that gave the Heat the lead by a single point.

 

Orlando had a chance, with 1.6 seconds left, to respond but remember when Van Gundy was forced to use his final timeout a few possessions prior? That cost the Magic a chance to advance the ball to mid-court and thus, Barnes had to heave a pass to Carter, who threw up a desperation shot (trying to draw the foul on two Heat defenders) that was never close the second he released it.

 

Game over.

 

The effort that was mentioned earlier in the recap needs to be revisited because although Orlando exhibited great energy, at times, Miami won out on the majority of the hustle stats - finishing +5 in blocks and +8 in rebounds. Likewise, the Heat took care of the basketball, committing only eight turnovers compared to 14 for the Magic. Can't forget about the free-throws, either, as Miami made 'em (27-32, 84.4%) and Orlando missed 'em (20-33, 60.6%). The Heat won, no question, because it did the little things better than the Magic. There's no doubt about it. One could blame Williams for missing free-throws with the game in the balance but even then (as Lewis told me in the locker room afterwards), all Orlando had to do was rebound Wade's air-ball. That's it.

 

Couldn't do it.

 

Make no mistake, Miami earned the victory. 

 

Credit the Heat's stout interior defense (courtesy of Joel Anthony and Jermaine O'Neal, et al) for forcing the Magic to operate almost strictly from the perimeter. Although Orlando had an excellent night shooting the ball from beyond the arc, there were times when shots wouldn't fall and the team's offensive flow would stagnate, as a result. Also, Howard wasn't much of a factor on offense. The five shot attempts for Dwight are too low, of course, but even when he was able to get offensive rebounds, Miami defenders wouldn't let him get any put-backs. Instead, Howard would be fouled and forced to earn his points at the charity stripe, which didn't turn out so well (6-11, 54.5%).

 

Offensively, Lewis was a non-factor as well.

 

Pietrus should be commended for his defense on Wade. Although Wade went bonkers in the fourth quarter and did get the best of Pietrus sometimes (and Barnes, too), it came at the expense of a number of shot attempts.

 

As for the Magic, defensively, it was the attention to detail (or a lack thereof) that was the issue. The Heat did finish the game with some ugly percentages (excluding its efficiency, which was excellent thanks to its free-throws), but it didn't matter, because it won on the scoreboard.

 

It should be noted that I saw in the Orlando locker room, after the game, the number '4' marked and underlined in the color red. Presumably from Van Gundy. One can surmise that it probably signifies the four points Miami got off of back-to-back offensive rebounds in its last two offensive possessions.

 

A tough loss for the Orlando Magic but certainly not one to be ashamed of. The Miami Heat are a good team and it showed. After last night's thrilling matchup, the next three meetings during the regular season between these two squads should be a doozy.

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