“Uhh, it was disappointing, man,” said a wide-eyed Evan Fournier as he addressed the media postgame. “You know, I thought we fought, we played with the right energy. We had a good game, just had a really bad defensive second half.”
His eyes conveyed the frustration that filled the locker room as the Orlando Magic team lost another close one, this time against the Miami Heat. Once again, it appeared that they had found the answers, only to have those easy solutions evaporate in front of their eyes.
In this one, it was hard-charging center Bismack Biyombo, who brought new life to the team as he seemingly sprinted after every miss and contested every shot in the first half. Orlando was without starter Nikola Vucevic, but it didn’t seem to matter, as the defense looked as good as it has looked all season.
The Magic were cruising to a 66-50 lead behind the strong play of Biyombo and Aaron Gordon, who had a cool 20 points when the first half buzzer sounded.
All of that would go up in smoke, however, as those misses became makes for Miami and the Amway Center inexplicably became center stage for the Tyler Johnson show. The shifty Miami guard scored 22 of the team’s 36 points in the third quarter, and once the Heat offense got rolling it never stopped.
Despite a heroic performance by Aaron Gordon, who finished with 39 points for his third-best scoring output of the season, the shorthanded Magic could not overcome the negative momentum. They would score only 45 points to Miami’s 67 in the second half.
A large part of that was execution, as Magic point guard Elfrid Payton committed 5 of his 6 turnovers in the latter half of the game and the offense felt out of sync throughout.
In the end, the Heat hit 8-of-12 from beyond the arc in the second half and answered every shot that looked like it would lift the Magic out of harm’s way.
“Yeah, it hurts,” said Magic coach Frank Vogel, “our guys played their hearts out tonight, played with great effort. I felt like they deserved to win. But you’ve got to get stops down the stretch, and we weren’t able to do that.”
The Magic (12-25) will get Sunday off before traveling to Brooklyn to face the Nets (13-23) on Monday.