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Orlando Magic 101, Miami Heat 95

In a bizarre, sloppy game, the Orlando Magic defeated the Miami Heat, 101-95, escaping South Beach with a victory that won't leave many people associated with the organization happy. The Magic committed 21 turnovers, their third-highest total of the season, and looked exceptionally careless, but ultimately won the game due to tight defense late in the game, as well as dazzling three-point shooting. Dwight Howard anchored Orlando with 22 points and 18 rebounds, while Rashard Lewis scored 21 points on 5-of-6 three-point shooting, and Hedo Turkoglu added 15 points and 5 assists. Once again, Orlando had no answer for Miami's Dwyane Wade, who scored 42 points on 16-of-34 shooting. He made some brilliant plays, and some of his teammates had their moments, but it simply wasn't enough.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Magic 91 110.9 58.0% 30.4 22.6 23.1
Heat 104.4 47.7% 15.1 22.2 9.9

Before I resume, I'd like to point out that Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce sent the following Tweet about it:

this orlando miami game is Wack

To which loyal 3QC reader/commenter DieSlowKeyshawn responded:

That's just cus Orlando's been spanking ya boy.

But you knew The Truth would respond, right?

lol at u we will c in the playoffs

Hilarious. Good lookin' out, DSK.

It's pretty easy to understand why Miami gives Orlando such fits defensively. Due to their lack of an interior presence--with no disrespect intended toward the past-his-prime Jermaine O'Neal, who managed to draw two charges tonight--the Heat must rely on their speedy backcourt of Wade and Mario Chalmers to disrupt opponents' offenses. If they don't come up with the steal or deflection, or if they're otherwise unable to affect a change, the defense is left scrambling as it rotates to cover for the backcourt's errant ball-hawking. Not all of Orlando's turnovers came as a direct result of a Wade or Chalmers deflection; mental lapses played into it too: J.J. Redick got called for stepping on the sideline twice; both Rafer Alston and Mickael Pietrus threw passes to where they thought Howard would be, not where he was; and Turkoglu threw a pass at least 6 feet over Alston's head in the left corner. For a while, it appeared as though these errors might be Orlando's undoing.

But Miami wasn't all that sharp either. 8 free-throw misses for it tonight, including three consecutive by Chalmers after Alston fouled him on a desperation three-point attempt with 1 second on the shot clock. Wade was great, O'Neal managed to blow by Howard a few times--more on this point later--before foul trouble forced him to the bench, and Jamaal Magloire came up with some key offensive rebounds and putbacks. Other than Wade, the Heat have no offense of which to speak. When they needed a basket late in the game, they went to Wade, but--perhaps deterred by Howard's presence--he frequently went to the pull-up jumper instead. Were it not for some bail-out fouls at Courtney Lee's expense, Wade's fourth quarter would not have been nearly as impressive. Non-Heat fans have bemoaned Wade's being able to parade to the free-throw line since the Heat won the championship in 2006, so I won't belabor the point, but wow: he is Jordanesque in his ability to draw dubious fouls. And in many other respects.

More remarkable than Orlando's 21 turnovers: the fact that it still posted an offensive efficiency of 110.9. It all ties into my earlier point about the Heat's defense being fairly easy to beat once you get past the perimeter. The Magic's ball-movement in the third quarter was about as good as it's been all season, resulting in wide-open three-point looks for Lewis, Lee, and Pietrus. Of course we're probably not discussing any of this if those guys didn't manage to can those shots, but you understand my point. It would have been nice to see the Magic try to involve Howard more in that period, but I can live with his lack of touches when it means Lee is hoisting cold-blodded threes. The young man is not lacking for confidence, and he played some great defense on Wade tonight. S ure, he fouled out in 16 minutes, but that's largely due to his standing as a rookie. I'm referring to his overall technique. The next time one of the league's top wing players tries to take him one-on-one, pay close attention. File it away. Then compare it to how defensive specialists like Raja Bell, Bruce Bowen, and Shane Battier play. Then try not to get excited about what Courtney Lee can do for this team as it makes its championship run over the course of the next several seasons.

Let's go back to Howard's defense tonight: it wasn't there, for the most part. The first play of the game, he lost the step to O'Neal, who went in for an easy two points. A bit later, he was overeager to trap Wade on a pick-and-roll, and Wade threaded the needle to O'Neal for another jam. He also lost track of Magloire in the lane several times, freeing Magloire--who is, at this stage of his career, about as mobile as the basket stanchion--to grab offensive rebounds. Apart from his clutch block of a Chalmers layup attempt with the score tied and 3:47 to play, it was a rare off-night for Dwight on defense.

A while ago, in one of his many quotable moments, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said something alluding to the fact that the media always mention Rashard Lewis' contributions with phrases like "chipped in" (see: the opening paragraph of this recap). It was his way of calling attention to Lewis' skills as a player, and how the media don't always recognize them. For the second game in a row, Rashard has earned praise for his offense. The eye-popping number in the boxscore is 5, which is the number of three-pointers he made, in 6 attempts. But he mixed in some strong takes to the basket, including a tough, hanging jumper, that should serve to make the defense think twice about crowding him at the arc. As Miami learned first-hand tonight, it's very hard to beat the Magic when Howard, Lewis, and Turkoglu are all simultaneously "on" offensively.

Orlando will attempt to attain its third 7-game winning streak of the season this Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors.