Rashard Lewis scored 22 points and Vince Carter had 17 to help Orlando overcome Dwight Howard’s poor night and the return of Dwyane Wade to the Heat’s lineup with a 96-80 win Sunday night at Amway Arena.
The two players who have probably struggled the most in living up to this season’s lofty expectations came through as Howard struggled all game with foul trouble and could not establish good post position against the Heat’s Joel Anthony and Jermaine O’Neal. Howard scored just seven points on 1-of-7 shooting and collected only five rebounds, ending his franchise best streak of 20 consecutive double doubles.
That type of game usually spells doom for Orlando. Also spelling doom was Wade’s surprise return to the lineup. But fortunately for the Magic, Carter and Lewis stepped up to fill the void.
In a tell-tale third quarter, it was these two leading the charge for Orlando after a sluggish first half. The Magic outscored the Heat 24-16 in the third to take a firm control of the game. The energy level picked up coming out of the locker room as the team locked down on Wade defensively and stifled Miami’s offense in the process.
Lewis and Carter both did a good job keeping the Magic afloat in the first half and helping them take control in the second. Carter was an efficient seven of 10 from the floor and Lewis, still struggling with his 3-point shot after going two for seven tonight, attacked the basket and hit on eight of his 14 attempts.
Carter looked like he did back in his New Jersey/Toronto days and at times it seemed like he was getting ready to explode for one of those nights. Unfortunately, fouls too cut his time short in the first half. Lewis was much the same way as Miami chased him off the 3-point line only to see him aggressively attack the basket. Hoopdata.com had Lewis hitting all five of his shots within 15 feet. A very solid effort from Lewis.
But while Lewis and Carter shined, the bench proved to be a key difference tonight.
Orlando got a lot of quality minutes from its bench as Miami attacked the basket early and forced the team into early foul trouble. The bench has been very up and down in recent games. This game was decided up for them.
The Magic got 15 points from JJ Redick, nine points and seven rebounds from Marcin Gortat and quality minutes from Brandon Bass to keep the team in the lead in the first half and more than in control in the third quarter. A solid effort from them as Carter, Lewis and Howard struggled with fouls throughout the game.
What might be more impressive was how Orlando finally turned the tables on Dwyane Wade.
Sure, Wade still had a stellar performance and took advantage of the Magic’s slow defensive rotations in the first half. But Wade struggled mightily in the second half. Whether that was fatigue from playing his second game since the All Star break and his first since a calf injury sidelined him for four games or whether that was Orlando’s defense is completely debatable (can’t it be a bit of both?).
But one thing that is not is that Wade scored just four of his 21 points in the second half and shot just six of 17 from the floor.
Wade was his usual attacking himself throughout the first half as he drew foul after foul on whoever was guarding him or, if he blew by him, on whoever was rotating to him — Lewis and Howard. Wade got to the foul line at will in the first half and kept Miami in the game on his own.
It is difficult watching him on this Miami team because without him in the lineup, his team is just plain bad. Wade takes the Heat to a higher level without doubt.
It is why they completely outhustled the Magic throughout the first half to offensive rebounds and seemed more energetic on defense. It mattered and Orlando was not ready to match its opponent’s effort early. The sleepwalking kept Howard from getting involved on offense and defense and led the team to give up 11 offensive rebounds, including eight in the first half.
Miami trailed by only four at the half.
But Orlando showed up in the second half and locked the door. The Magic held the Heat to 32 total points in the second half as they slowly expanded the lead.