The Orlando Magic came into Wednesday's game against the Miami Heat a huge 16 point underdog, as the Heat were aiming for their 16th win in a row. The Magic were just a few seconds away from the upset of the season in the NBA, but LeBron James' left-handed driving lay-in with 3.2 seconds remaining gave Miami the 97-96 victory after a desperation 3-point attempt by Arron Afflalo missed the mark at the buzzer.
Orlando outscored Miami, 86-70, from the floor, but the Heat had a huge advantage in free throws, outscoring the Magic 27-10 from the free throw line. Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless, and Tobias Harris fouled out for the Magic. Orlando outmuscled Miami on the boards with a 45-33 advantage, including 15-7 on the offensive glass, but committed 18 turnovers.
Vucevic came alive with one of his best games of the season, contributing 25 points and 21 rebounds, before fouling out. Jameer Nelson, despite a tough shooting night at 6-for-18, scored 16 points along with 14 assists, which tied for the second-most assists in his career. Harris led the reserves with 16 points, Afflalo scored 15 despite shooting 5-of-16, and Harkless added 12 points.
James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh--the Big Three of Miami--combined for 67 of Miami's 97 points, as James scored 26 points, Wade 24 points, and Bosh 17 points. No one else scored in double figures for the Heat.
Miami shot just 4-of-17 (23.5%) in the fourth quarter, including missing all eight 3-pointers they attempted, but were 12-of-14 from the free throw line to compensate for their poor shooting from the field.
Nelson's fadeaway jumper with 1:36 remaining gave the Magic a 96-93 lead, and after two missed threes from James, Orlando had a chance to up the lead to five points with under a minute remaining. Harris was called for a charge with 52 seconds left to give Miami back the ball. The call fouled Harris out of the game and nullified the floater he had just made. Bosh made two free throws, and a missed three-pointer from Al Harrington set up the game-winning layup from James.
The game was close for most of the first quarter, with the score tied at 18 at the 2:28 mark. Miami scored the final seven points of the quarter to take a 25-18 lead into the second quarter. Bosh had 8 points to lead the Heat in the opening quarter, and Vucevic and Jameer Nelson scored 5 points each to lead the Magic.
The Heat gradually built their lead in the second quarter. Reserve guard Norris Cole connected on two 3-pointers in 40 seconds to give Miami a 34-22 lead with over ten minutes remaining, but a three from Harkless cut the Magic deficit to 37-31 with just over six minutes remaining. That would be the closest the Magic would come the rest of the first half, as Miami scored the last six points to take a 55-40 lead into intermission. James, after a slow start to the game, scored 10 points in the second quarter, including two dunks, and led the Heat in the opening half with 14 points, with Wade and Bosh contributing 10 points each. Vucevic led the Magic with 9 points. Afflalo struggled badly, shooting just 1 for 10 for 4 points.
Miami threatened to break the game wide open in the opening minute of the third quarter, after a Lionel Chalmers 3 and a Wade dunk gave the Heat their largest lead of the game at 60-40. Orlando did not panic though, and gradually cut into the Heat lead in the next nine minutes, as they trailed 74-63 with 2:10 left in the third. The Magic then made their move to get right back in the game, outscoring Miami 11-3 the rest of the quarter, with Harris scoring six of the points as the Magic trailed 77-74 entering the final quarter. Vucevic scored ten points and grabbed nine rebounds in the quarter to lead the Orlando surge, as the Magic scored 34 points in the quarter on 58% shooting.
Nelson's three-point play gave the Magic their first lead of the game 82-81 with 9:23 remaining, a lead which Orlando would not relinquish until James' heroics at the end.
Orlando hosts the Indiana Pacers Friday evening in Orlando.