The Orlando Magic won their fourth consecutive home opener Wednesday night, defeating the defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat, 113-107. Three of those four season-opening wins at the Amway Center (dating back to 2017) have come at the expense of Orlando’s Southeast division rival.
Evan Fournier led the way for the Magic, scoring 25 points (9 for 13 shooting) to go along with 4 assists and 3 steals. Aaron Gordon added 20 points (nine of which came in the fourth quarter), 7 rebounds, and 4 steals on the night.
“We didn’t play well at home last year,” Coach Steve Clifford told reporters after the game. “We were 16-15 (last season at home) - there are two things we’ve been talking about. One, getting off to better starts (last year, the first quarter was our worst quarter). Tonight we were minus two, but I thought we showed good readiness. And the second thing is, we have to make Amway a tough place to play.”
The Magic set the tempo early on the defensive end of the floor, finding a way to get their hands on multiple Heat passes in the half-court. Markelle Fultz and Gordon in particular were significantly active in the defensive passing lanes. forcing Miami into multiple turnovers (12 first half Miami turnovers, which led to 18 points for Orlando).
Goran Dragic, who came off the bench tonight, settled things down for Miami as soon as he checked into the game. Dragic’s seven first quarter points, along with a couple three-point field goals from Duncan Robinson, helped the Heat take an early lead over the Magic.
Fortunately for the Magic, veteran wing Terrence Ross was in rhythm as soon as he stepped on the floor to open his season, leading Orlando’s newly formed second unit. Ross connected on a jumper as the first quarter horn sounded to cut Miami’s lead to just a point.
The Magic cleaned things up offensively in the second quarter after turning the ball over eight times in the game’s opening period. Rookie Cole Anthony settled-in mid-second quarter and contributed a nice flurry of six points and four assists in an eleven-minute stretch that saw the Magic take a first half lead.
The Magic led the Heat (57-53) after a first half that saw them shoot 52 percent from the floor and grab six offensive rebounds. Orlando’s bench chipped-in with 27 first half points, led by Ross (12 first half points).
An interesting development occurred with 10:50 on the clock in third quarter when Magic starting power forward Aaron Gordon was called for his fourth personal foul, which led to Gordon sitting the rest of the period.
The Heat broke-off a 10-3 spurt, which included seven points from Jimmy Butler (who finished with 19 points, 7 for 15 from the field), and another three-point field goal from Robinson (whic tied the game at 74 points apiece).
Miami outscored the Magic 30-23 in the third quarter, taking a two possession lead into the game’s final period.
Gordon came back to start the fourth quarter and promptly knocked-down a couple jump-shots, bailing the Magic out towards the end of the shot-clock after rather stagnant half-court offense. Gordon poured in seven of Orlando’s first twelve points in the game’s final period, capped off by this incredible dunk (off a lob from Anthony).
“Anywhere in the vicinity,” Gordon joked after the game. “Just kick it up there any I’m going to go get it. They say, the worse the pass is, the better the lob is. The youngin’ made me jump for that one.”
The Magic went nearly four minutes of game action without scoring in the fourth, until consecutive three point field goals by Fournier and Vucevic put the Magic up by two.
Following a Kelly Olynyk three-point field goal, Fournier hit a wild running attempt in the paint to put the Magic up 101-98 with just over two minutes remaining in the contest. A Fultz field goal, another that came from a wild-runner in the painted area, put the Magic up by two possessions - a lead they would not relinquish.
Bam Adebayo had a monster game for the Heat in a losing effort, scoring 25 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. Dragic added 20 points (8-13 FGA’s) off Miami’s bench.
Ross finished with 19 points, and Vucevic recorded his first double-double of the season (15 points and 11 rebounds).
“Every year is different,” Fournier told reporters after the game. “Every year you have teams that go to the top, you have different surprise teams. Obviously, we all know Miami is a really good team. To win against a really good team, it’s (good) for your confidence. It shows that we competed at a high-level. But last year was last year.”
The Magic now head to Washington for a two-game series on Saturday (26th) and Sunday (27th).