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Magic put together plays late to avoid another meltdown, win 116-107 over Miami

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While it wasn’t always pretty, the road win was a big bounceback from a couple of Orlando’s worst losses.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday against the Miami Heat, each quarter told its own little story. The first was all about the Orlando Magic’s offense and rebounding, and the second was about the Heat responding in kind. The third was a back-and-forth battle to gain control of the game, and the fourth was mercifully marked by Orlando making the necessary plays in clutch time to take the 116-107 road win in Miami. Evan Fournier was the leading scorer of the game with 24, including several crucial buckets at the end of the game. Nikola Vucevic dominated the boards, corralling 17 to go with 13 points. Miami was lead by 23 from Dion Waiters, continuing his South Beach renaissance, and Goran Dragic scored 22. Aaron Gordon made his return to the court as a starter after missing time with a foot injury.

The first quarter was defined by two stats: the Magic’s scoring total (36), and their rebounding advantage (17-5). While Orlando’s first shots weren’t always going in, their 6 offensive rebounds went a long way toward building an efficient start to the game. In particular, the Magic got a lot of foul shots on those second-chance opportunities, going 9-9 in the quarter. After the Heat took and early 2-0 lead, the Magic rattled off a quick 10-0 response to take control right away. Their lead was as high as 29-19 before the Heat reserves got the advantage against the Magic’s, but they were able to stabilize and continue the hot scoring from the starters. Fournier led the balanced scoring for the Magic with 8, who held a 36-28 advantage.

The Heat countered in the second, coming right back with their own big offensive quarter, much of that coming in at the end with a big 14-3 run. While it’s been the big men that have abused the Magic in the past in this matchup, particularly Hassan Whiteside, it was all about the guards on Monday night. Waiters did well driving against Gordon, who looked a step slow defensively on his return to the court, while Dragic took advantage of two 3-point fouls in the second. They combined to score 29 points in the first half. For the Magic, they got a boost in the second from Jeff Green, adding 8 to hold the Heat at bay. Orlando clung to a small 60-57 lead at halftime.

The third was defined by the constant push-and-pull between the two teams, especially in the latter part of the period. The Heat constantly threatened to take the lead on Orlando, getting the score within 1 or 2 repeatedly. Every time, however, the Magic would come right back with a bucket of their own, including 8 points from Payton, aggressively looking for chances around the basket. James Johnson was quiet throughout the game up to this point, but in the third he added 9 for the Heat. At one point the Magic looked like they might have regained control, using an assist from Hezonja to Green for 2, followed by a Hezonja 3-pointer to take a 6-point lead. To the contrary, that’s when Miami finally pounced, with Dragic nailing a layup at the buzzer to tie the game at 87.

The fourth conjured memories of the Magic’s recent game versus Philadelphia, nursing a small lead late in the game that they threatened to throw away with poor execution on both ends. Like the third, Orlando appeared to take control with a 9-0 burst, 5 points courtesy of Hezonja (including an acrobatic lob finish), and 4 from Payton. That wasn’t the end for Miami, though. Johnson continued his big second-half scoring, adding another 6, and getting an embarrassing offensive rebound that should have been easily collected by the Magic, leading to a make by Whiteside.

As Dragic hit free throws to get the game within single digits with less than 2 minutes to go, it looked like Orlando was going to throw away another one. Fournier had other plans, as he single-handedly carried the offense down the stretch, scoring 7 of Orlando’s points in a row, punctuated by a dagger 3-pointer. Free throws would seal the deal for Orlando, earning their first road sweep of the Heat since 2008.