The Orlando Magic battled back from a 13-point first-quarter deficit against the Miami Heat on Sunday, but in the game's final period, the team struggled on both ends of the floor, contributing to a 91-81 loss that evened the season-series between the teams at two apiece. Dwyane Wade shot 7-of-12 in the final 12 minutes, scoring 14 of his game-high 31 points to bury Orlando, which finished the period with seven turnovers to just six field goals. Reserve forward Quentin Richardson, in the game for defensive purposes, shot 3-of-5 in the fourth, all from beyond the arc, in providing some surprising scoring punch. But he alone couldn't lift the Magic's offense over the top against Miami; Richardson's Magic teammates shot 3-of-10 for nine points and eight turnovers in the fourth.
The Heat built their big lead by exploting Chris Bosh's mismatch against Ryan Anderson inside. The seven-time All-Star made all five of his shot attempts and scored 12 points in the first period, badly outplaying Anderson and forcing the Magic to focus their defensive attention on him instead of Wade and LeBron James, the Heat's top two offensive options on most nights. Miami ran the offense through Bosh to great effect, as he dished two assists in the period as well.
Orlando managed to close the gap over the ensuing two periods by taking better care of the ball and getting back defensively, which limited the Heat's fast-break chances. In so doing, it limited Miami to 36 points over the second and third periods, compared to the 31 points it allowed in the first quarter.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.
Sunday's contest illustrates a point Heat beat writer Brian Windhorst used to make often during his days covering the Cleveland Cavaliers: against great teams, your margin for error decreases dramatically. You're more likely to get away with playing sloppily against lower-rung teams like the Charlotte Bobcats and New Jersey Nets than you are against the Heats of the NBA. And the Magic made too many mistakes, and not simply turnovers. As ESPN analyst Hubie Brown noted, Dwight Howard has to be more aggressive in re-posting once he passes out of the post, while backup big man Glen Davis needs to convert his shots under the basket. During the game, ESPN's Ric Bucher reported coach Stan Van Gundy was displeased with his team's slowness in getting into its offense, as well as its propensity to foul.
And yes, it's true the Magic knocked off Miami in a game earlier this season despite committing 24 turnovers. But in that game, they shot 11-of-28 (39.3 percent) from three-point range and limited Miami to 11 free-throw attempts. In Sunday's game, the Magic shot just 9-of-25 (36 percent) from long distance--with, as noted previously, Richardson doing most of the damage--and put Miami on the line 27 times.
Against the league's elite, my thesis is Orlando can afford to commit a lot of turnovers or foul a bunch and still win, but it can't do both.
Miami re-took the lead for good at the 4:34 mark of the third period as James found Mario Chalmers on the right wing for a three-pointer in delayed transition. Hedo Turkoglu helped set up that basket by settling for a contested, off-balance, fading three-point try from the top of the arc. The entire game didn't hinge on that play--very rarely do entire games rest on single, isolated incidents--but I point it out nonetheless as an illustration of the importance of reducing mistakes. Settling for long jumpers against the Heat isn't too terribly far removed from simply handing them the ball under your own basket. It's an invitation to score.
Orlando gets another crack at knocking off an elite team Monday night when it hosts the NBA-leading Chicago Bulls at Amway Center. A win might ease the sting of Sunday's defeat; a loss, however, would mark Orlando's third in its last four games, each coming against one of the few teams ahead of it in the standings.
Of what are the Orlando Magic made? We won't know for sure until the postseason, but we'll have some sort of idea following Monday's game.