The start of the second half of the Magic season looked a lot like a majority of the first half: with the Magic struggling to put together a lineup.
And as a result, struggling to hit shots.
In the first game after the All-Star break, the Magic were without Terrence Ross, Evan Fournier, James Ennis and Cole Anthony. It’s not easy to win an NBA basketball game with a bulk of your available players being centers and power forwards, leaving Steve Clifford to say prior to the game that some of the Magic will be “playing positions tonight they’ve never played.”
Despite the best efforts of the undermanned and out-of-position Magic, they went on fall to the Heat, 111-103.
The Magic did get one player back, albeit on a minutes restriction...
Aaron Gordon, after missing the previous 15 games with an ankle injury, was back in the lineup and got off to a quick start. AG hit his first shot just seconds in and went on to score 7 of the Magic’s first 11 points.
A 10-0 run by the Heat, capped with threes by Mo Harkless and Kelly Olynyk, gave Miami a 25-18 lead with 3:22 remaining in the first. That was one of three triples that Olynyk, who stepped up in Bam Adebayo’s absence in a five-out system, hit in the quarter (3-for-5), scoring 13 points in the first (Note: 10.1 points per game on the season). The Heat made 6 of 13 attempts from deep in the first, while shooting 47 percent overall and assisting on all 11 of their field goals.
The Magic second-unit closed the quarter on an 11-3 run, highlighted by a Mo Bamba putback shortly after checking in and a Chuma Okeke pullup jumper with seconds remaining that sent the Magic into the second with a 32-30 advantage.
Nikola Vucevic had nine points on 4-for-6 shooting in the first to lead Orlando, which shot 44 percent, grabbed five offensive rebounds, and made 7 of 8 attempts from the line in the opening quarter.
Mo Bamba got an extended run early in this one and was active yet disciplined. In seven minutes he had eight first-half points, following a hook shot with this straightaway three in the second to put the Magic in front...
Mo minutes, Mo problems https://t.co/bjpP9VIMw3— Orlando Pinstriped Post (@OPPMagicBlog) March 12, 2021
The remainder of the second quarter was a battle between Vucevic and Miami’s three-point shooters. Vooch scored nine in the quarter, finishing the half with 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting, while Miami continued hitting from deep at an efficient rate, knocking down 5 of 12 attempts in the second for a grand total of 11 first-half threes (on 25 attempts, 44 percent). The Magic trailed 63-58 at the break.
The Magic defense did a better job limiting the Heat’s success from deep as Miami hit just 2 of 16 attempts in the third while being held to 19 points in the quarter. At the other end, Dwayne Bacon scored 11 of the Magic’s 24 points in the quarter, going 4 of 5 from the field, making threes on back-to-back possessions to put the Magic in front 74-71 midway through the third.
The two teams went into the fourth quarter tied at 82.
But the Magic went cold in the fourth. Trailing by one after a Bacon three, Orlando went nearly four minutes without a field goal as the Heat’s lead grew to 103-94.
Orlando went on to make just 8 of 28 field goal attempts in the fourth en route to losing a sixth straight game.
Vucevic finished with 24 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Magic, who shot 41.1 percent and made 12 of 34 threes (35.3%). Bacon added a season-high 21 points Michael Carter-Williams had 17 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds, but also commit 6 of the Magic’s 14 turnovers. Gordon, in 14 minutes of play, finished with 9 points and 2 rebounds.
Jimmy Butler scored 9 of his 27 points in the fourth and also had 11 assists as the Heat won for the eighth time in nine games. Olynyk had 20 points, going 4 of 8 from deep, and Tyler Herro added 17, despite going 1 of 7 from three. The Heat overall made 16 of 49 three-point attempts.
These same two teams will meet again on Sunday. But first the Magic head to San Antonio to complete a back-to-back against a Spurs team that will be without DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Elsewhere in Florida, another Magic team won a championship....