Two in-state rivals met Sunday night inside the Amway Center for the final game of the 2021-22 season. One team - the Miami Heat - were resting the majority of their primary rotation players after clinching the top seed in the Eastern Conference (no Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, etc.). And the other - the Orlando Magic - came into the contest with the second-worst record in the NBA (or second best lottery odds, depending upon how you view it) already clinched.
With seemingly nothing to play for on either side, the Orlando Magic put on a shooting clinic on Fan Appreciation Night, defeating the Miami Heat 125-111. The Magic made a season-high 23 three-point field goals against their division foes.
The 23 three-point field goals Orlando hit Sunday (39.7 percent) tied an all-time franchise record for made three-point field goals in a single game (also January 13th, 2009 in Sacramento), and their 58 three-point attempted field goals in the game set an all-time franchise record.
“They did a great job sharing the basketball,” Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley told reporters after the game. “That was a reflection of it. Being able to step into shots - wide-open - and have the confidence to knock them down. That’s what we’ve talked about since the beginning. Feet set three’s, that means you’re sharing the basketball, trying to play the right way.”
Seven Magic players scored in double-figures against the Heat, led by Mo Bamba’s 21 points (7-11 FGA’s, 5-9 3PTA’s) and 10 rebounds. Guard R.J. Hampton added a career-high 21 points (8-16 FGA’s, 4-7 3PTA’s), 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.
A familiar face inside the Amway Center was feeling it early in the game, as former Magic second overall pick (‘13) Victor Oladipo scored nine of the Heat’s first 15 points in the contest. The ninth-year guard, who was starting for a resting Lowry, was playing in his eighth game of the regular season after missing most of the year with an injured right quadricep tendon.
Orlando was able to match Miami’s potent offensive attack in the first quarter with six three-point field goals of their own, including two from Moritz Wagner. Wagner exploded to open the game, scoring 10 of his 14 points through the game’s first 12 minutes.
The Magic began the second quarter on a 16-5 run to open up a double-digit first half lead. Orlando scored 20 of the first 27 points in the period, led by reserve wing Ignas Brazdeikis. Brazdeikis made his first five attempts off the Magic bench in the second, scoring 13 of his 15 points in the second twelve.
Orlando would have been primed to run away with the contest in the first half if not for Oladipo, who continued his stellar play against his former team when he came back into the game in the second quarter. The Washington, D.C. native scored 14 of Miami’s last 17 points heading into intermission. Oladipo scored 16 in the second, which accounted for more than half of Miami’s points scored in the period.
The Magic were zoned-in on the ‘three-ball’ coming out of the break. Orlando buried seven of thirteen three-point field goal attempts in the third quarter, led by forward Chuma Okeke - who knocked down three three-point field goals in the period.
Orlando missed just seven field goal attempts (12 for 19 FGA’s) in the third quarter, as the ball whipped from inside to outside - and (mostly) from side to side around the perimeter. Because they were missing so many of their regular rotation players, the Heat lacked their signature defensive intensity that has defined how the team has played all season.
Magic starting point guard Markelle Fultz was the primary initiator orchestrating Orlando’s offense Sunday. Fultz dished-out a career-high 15 assists against Miami.
“He’s done a phenomenal job to get his body in this position,” Mosley said of Fultz after the game. “Our performance staff has done a great job with him, our coaches have done a fantastic job - in just trusting in the time frame of when he was going to come back (this season) and just letting his body respond. And now, obviously you can see what he’s doing game after game, wanting more each game. But also, understanding it’s about his health, and making it through to the end of the season.”
The final quarter of the game - in the final game of the season - between two teams that had absolutely nothing to play for, turned exactly as ugly as you would imagine it would. Both teams camped out on the perimeter, heaving field goal attempts from beyond the arc.
The Magic, who built a comfortable lead in the third (as much as 24 points), were able to cruise to a relatively stress free victory to close out the 2021-22 season.
Reserve guard Devin Cannady, who agreed to a contract with the Orlando Magic prior to Sunday’s game (allowing him to even play against Miami), scored a season-high 15 points off the bench (4 for 9 3PTA’s).
Oladipo finished with a game-high 40 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists in 36 minutes. Rookie guard Javonte Smart scored a career-high 20 points off Miami’s bench.
For Miami, it’s on to a first round date with an opponent to be determined (either Brooklyn, Cleveland, Atlanta, or Charlotte).
And for the Magic, it’s officially the offseason. The organization’s next big night will occur during the NBA’s Draft Lottery. And the wheels will be put into motion from there.
“The sky is the limit,” Fultz said after the game, when asked about his team’s bright future ahead. “I truly believe we can be something really, really special. We’re all ready for that challenge.”
“Honestly, I’ll probably give myself about two days to turn my phone off, sit down, and do nothing,” Mosley said when asked about when the planning for next season begins. “Go spend some time with my wife and kids, about four or five days of that. And then get back to work in about ten days total.”