The Orlando Magic made 15 three-pointers, forced 21 turnovers, and yet when the clock struck 0:00 on their game Wednesday against the Miami Heat, they found themselves on the wrong end of a 120-92 blowout. Miami got 21 points, six rebounds, and seven assists from LeBron James to pick up its sixth straight victory over its Sunshine State rival.
Here's a look at the stories that developed in Wednesday's loss, the Magic's fifth in their last six games.
A new starting crew
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn elected to start Victor Oladipo at shooting guard, shifting Arron Afflalo to small forward, Maurice Harkless to power forward, and Jason Maxiell to the bench.
Vaughn did not formally announce the lineup change in his pre-game meeting with the media, but in that availability session he hinted that he wasn't married to the starting lineup which he'd used in each of the Magic's first 10 games.
"We did have a lineup that consisted of five people for 10 games, but I can't say that would have been the lineup if everyone was healthy," Vaughn said, asked specifically if having a consistent starting five is an advantage.
Oladipo said after the game he had about three hours' advance notice that he'd pick up the first start of his career.
"It's not really much of an adjustment," Oladipo said. "I just never played against Miami before, so I didn't really know what to expect or what it looked like. I do now."
Oladipo finished his first NBA start with 20 points on 5-of-12 shooting from the floor and 8-of-8 shooting from the foul line. To the scoring he added four rebounds, two assists, five steals, eight turnovers, and two blocked shots.
The Heat outscored the Magic by a 39-25 margin with Orlando's new starting five on the floor. As a unit, the new Orlando fivesome shot just 34.8 percent from the field.
Jameer Nelson, Oladipo's backcourt mate, said starting alongside Oladipo wasn't an adjustment for him, as they had shared the floor in Orlando's prior games.
"He's a guard. I'm a guard. No matter who brings the ball up, the other one plays off, and we're fine with it," Nelson said. "It's new to us in terms of just this season--he's new to the NBA and I'm new to playing off the ball--so we just have to figure things out."
Afflalo, who notched his third 30-point game of the season Wednesday, said he like the lineup because it gives Orlando two players who can make plays with dribble penetration.
Vučević quiet as Heat dominate boards
Magic center Nikola Vučević dominated the Heat in his first pinstriped season, averaging 21.7 points, 21 rebounds, and three assists on 63 percent shooting. He fouled out early in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's game with just six points and six rebounds.
"I was in foul trouble," Vučević said, "so I didn't play that much. I really couldn't get going because I was in and out so much."
Vaughn said he didn't think the Heat did anything differently defensively against his seven-footer. He agreed that foul trouble was the biggest challenge Vučević faced: "I think foul trouble all night was not in our favor for him."
The Heat handily won the rebounding battle, 40-25, perhaps due to Vučević's only playing 23 minutes. After acknowledging that Miami didn't miss many shots for Orlando to rebound in the first place, Afflalo offered his analysis of the disparity on the boards.
"There were some long rebounds that I feel our effort could have been better, to get those long rebounds that led to some second-chance points for them," he said. "But overall, you can only rebound the ball when you get stops, and I don't think we got enough stops tonight."
Vaughn said that the Magic's "smalls" need to contribute more on the glass than they did against Miami. Though he didn't name any names, it's worth noting that Afflalo and Harkless managed just two rebounds apiece, and Doron Lamb didn't grab a single board in 15 reserve minutes.
Magic don't sweat slow start
Miami opened the game on a 16-0 run, but Orlando didn't seem too concerned after the game with that early deficit.
"I thought we responded pretty well from that," Vaughn said. The Magic closed the period on a 20-9 run and thus trailed by only five points when it ended. Orlando had the same deficit at halftime. "I wasn't too concerned about the 16-0 run."
Afflalo agreed. "Obviously, you don't wanna come out with that type of energy, but we overcame that. It was [the] first quarter [....] I don't think the significance of them jumping out on us played too heavy into the outcome of the game."
Indeed, Orlando fought back and even took a one-point lead early in the second quarter. Miami did its damage after halftime, scoring 66 points on 73.9 percent True Shooting while limiting Orlando to 43 points.
Nicholson the odd man out
Andrew Nicholson played only the final 5:55 of the game, going scoreless with an assist and a foul. Vaughn elected to use Maxiell and Solomon Jones at the backup big-man positions. The pair combined for six points and five rebounds on 3-of-10 shooting in 38 minutes.
"Matchups for him, I wouldn't think Michael Beasley versus my guy, Andrew Nicholson, would be a good matchup," Vaughn said. "As a coach, those are the types of situations I have to look at. It's just a night where we went a little shorter in the rotation, and a lot of it has to do with matchups."
Beasley and Rashard Lewis were Miami's big forwards off the bench. In 21 minutes, Beasley scored 14 points, while Lewis had two points, two boards, and three assists in 25 minutes.
Playing time has been scarce for Nicholson, Orlando's most efficient offensive player a year ago, when the Magic have faced small teams. He logged only three minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks on November 13th, and with Miami next on the schedule Saturday, that trend figures to continue.
The Magic announced Wednesday a new partnership with Chick-fil-A. If Orlando makes at least five three-pointers in any home game, fans in attendance can redeem their ticket stub or seat locator for a free spicy chicken sandwich at any participating Chick-fil-A location.
In addition, the Magic are now offering holiday ticket plans for sale. For more details on this promotion, please visit www.orlandomagic.com/holiday or call 407.89.MAGIC.