The Orlando Magic trailed by only two points at halftime Saturday against the Miami Heat, but let the game get away from them in the third quarter as the visitors went on a 15-0 run, ultimately losing by a 110-94 final, their third straight defeat.
Former Magic forward Rashard Lewis scored 18 points, while Chris Bosh shot 9-of-9 from the floor for 20 to co-lead Miami with Dwyane Wade. LeBron James played miserably, missing 8 of his 13 shots for just 15 points.
Jameer Nelson led the Magic with a season-high 21 points on 5-of-8 shooting from three-point range, his most prolific outside shooting game since March 25th, also in a loss to Miami. Tobias Harris scored 11 of his 17 in the first half, but added 10 rebounds.
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn started Andrew Nicholson for the first time since December 8th, and the second-year power forward struggled out of the gate: he took a shot on four of Orlando's first five possessions and missed all of them, though it's hard to argue with his selection; the looks simply didn't fall. Once the Magic started involving their other players in the offense, they scored with more ease: Nelson stepped into a three-pointer at the 5:22 mark of the first quarter to break a 15-all tie, Orlando's fourth three-pointer in as many tries.
The offense soon dried up once the threes stopped falling, as the Magic managed just six points after that Nelson triple.
Making matters worse, the world champions had no trouble scoring against Orlando, and that's with LeBron James missing five of his first six shots. Miami shot 13-of-22 (59.1 percent) in the first quarter, with Lewis leading the way with 10 points as Miami tried to involve him early. The Heat took a 30-24 lead after one period, with that six-point margin their largest of the night.
Miami pushed its lead to 10 early in the second quarter, but a Glen Davis transition layup off a clever shovel pass from Victor Oladipo trimmed it to four moments later. That bucket was Orlando's second straight in transition and highlighted the extent to which this team relies on pushing the pace off opponent turnovers and misses. A third fast-break chance seconds later almost brought Orlando to within two, but Maurice Harkless missed a fairly easy layup try.
The Magic continued to run in transition, and even in their halfcourt sets they managed to create shots near the basket--even against the Heat's usually stout defense--with good cuts away from the ball and simple hustle: at the end of the first half, the Magic owned a 15-4 edge in fast-break points and an 8-0 advantage in second-chance points. They had thus drawn to within two points of the visitors despite shooting only 40.5 percent from the floor. Harris and Nelson led the Magic with 11 points apiece, while Orlando limited James to only six points on 2-of-8 from the floor.
Vaughn opened the second half with Oladipo on the floor to replace Nicholson, not a surprising move given Miami's personnel and Nicholson's unproductive six-minute stint in the first half. The Magic then fed Davis on three straight possessions, producing one point. Orlando made each of its next four shot attempts--none by Davis, incidentally--to take a three-point lead.
James, Dwyane Wade, and Mario Chalmers made layups on consecutive Heat possessions to put them back up by a point, prompting a Magic timeout. Davis scored coming out of it, but the Heat began to get more comfortable in the possessions ahead, going on a 15-0 run which included a Lewis four-point play from the left corner, a familiar sight for Magic fans.
An emphatic Harkless alley-oop jam got Orlando to within nine points with 19 seconds to play in the period, but the Heat finished the quarter up 11 after a pair of Michael Beasley free throws off a Kyle O'Quinn foul, the second-year center's third personal in as many minutes.
Harkless teamed with Oladipo on a great Magic sequence in the opening stages of the fourth quarter, stripping Wade and feeding the rookie guard for a fast-break layup to trim the Heat's lead to nine points. Miami responded to that play with a Norris Cole three-pointer and a Beasley tip-in of a Cole miss, pushing the edge to 14.
Orlando scored the game's next five points even as Miami coach Erik Spoelstra reloaded with James and Bosh joining Wade; that the Magic stayed competitive enough to warrant such usage of the Heat's All-Stars might count for a moral victory, if one believes in those sorts of things.