The Orlando Magic dropped their fifth game in their last six tries on Wednesday, falling to the Miami Heat by a 120-92 final despite 30 points from Arron Afflalo. Jameer Nelson stuffed the stat sheet with 17 points, five rebounds, and five assists, but those two had precious little help: Victor Oladipo, in his first NBA start, was the only other Magic player to score in double-figures, and he needed 12 field-goal attempts, eight free-throw attempts, and eight turnovers to score his 20 points. He tallied 11 of them in the fourth quarter with the outcome never in doubt.
The game started inauspiciously for Orlando, which missed its first eight field-goal tries while letting the Heat make each of their first seven. The result was a 16-0 Heat lead in the first four minutes and two seconds.
But the Magic rallied behind Afflalo, who scored eight points in a 10-0 run to get back into the game quickly. He hit a pair of free throws and, after a Maurice Harkless dunk, drained three-pointers--both from the left corner--on back-to-back possessions.
Turnovers helped the Magic compensate for poor first-quarter shooting: Miami committed five turnovers after its 16-0 start. Though the turnovers didn't exactly lead to Magic points with any consistency, they did--not to be obvious about it--keep the ball out of the Heat's hands.
Orlando fought its way back from a 16-0 deficit to close to within five points at the end of the first quarter, 25-20. Afflalo carried the Magic with 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from three-point distance. Miami's aggressive pick-and-roll traps left him open on the weak side, and he made the Heat pay for that strategy whenever the Magic managed to reverse the ball to him.
The Magic continued to punish the Heat's poor three-point defense in the second quarter, getting triples from Doron Lamb and Nelson to cut Miami's lead to one.
Erik Spoelstra returned James to the lineup moments later, a move which paid immediate dividends. The three-time Most Valuable Player scored eight points and dished three assists--all of them cross-court looks to three-point shooters--to push Miami's lead back to eight points at the 2:08 mark.
The Magic got to within five points at halftime thanks to two untimely Heat turnovers--their 12th and 13th of the half--and a vicious Jason Maxiell block of Chris Andersen which ignited a fastbreak for Oladipo, on which sequence he drew a foul and drained two free throws for his first points of the night.
Considering the position of weakness from which it started the game--the talent gap between the teams, sure, but also the 16-0 deficit--Orlando had to feel good about itself for only trailing by five at intermission. The team acquitted itself even with three fouls limiting Nikola Vučević, who typically excels against Miami, to 13 first-half minutes.
Within two minutes, the Heat managed to push their lead to 12 points off three James free throws and consecutive corner triples from Chris Bosh and Jones.
Jones hit three more triples in the quarter as Miami's offense continued apace. A Chalmers layup off an offensive rebound at the 1:58 mark put Miami up 20, its largest lead of the night. The period ended with Orlando down 19 as it continued to struggle converting shots inside the arc: a team that makes 13 threes through three periods, at home, should have a comfortable lead. And yet the Magic, because of the Heat's defense which at once pressures the perimeter and packs the paint, found itself down 19, with only nine two-pointers made.
The Heat built a 24-point lead as Orlando had six empty trips in its first seven possessions of the period. Vučević fouled out in that span with just six points and six rebounds on 2-of-7 shooting, prompting Jacque Vaughn to use Maxiell at center the rest of the way.
Miami extended its lead to as much as 36 points in garbage time as both coaches emptied their benches. For Orlando, that meant Andrew Nicholson got to see the floor: he checked in for the first time with 5:55 to play. Vaughn elected to use Maxiell and Solomon Jones ahead of him off the bench.