Winning by large margins has become routine for Orlando since the All-Star break. But last night, the Magic lived up to their nickname by making a comfortable lead disappear.
For a team so reliant on perimeter shooting, no lead is too safe and no deficit is too large. After Dwight Howard sunk a pair of free throws to put the Magic up 12, they seemed 5:07 away from victory. But when Mario Chalmers nailed a three to cap a 12-0 Miami run and tie the game with 1:31 remaining, it seemed the Magic had let a sure victory transform into a sudden loss.
Fortunately, this was one lead they were able to make reappear as they went on to defeat the Heat, 108-102, in overtime.
Michael Beasley hit a leaner in the paint to put the Heat ahead, 95-93, with 27 seconds left but Jameer Nelson, who scored a majority of his 15 points by penetrating and attacking the basket, answered with a 20-footer with 15 seconds remaining to tie the game and ultimately force overtime. Rashard Lewis scored seven points in overtime, including a three to put the Magic up 108-102 with 28 seconds to go, a lead the Magic managed to hold onto.
The Magic showed character by withstanding a late shift in momentum and overcoming a blown double-digit lead despite playing in the second game of a back-to-back on the home court of a probable playoff team. Surrendering the lead remains a concern, but the ability to regain it and pull out the win is encouraging. The Magic managed to split the season series, 2-2, against a team they could very well see in the first round of the playoffs.
With Orlando’s next game not until Monday, Vince Carter logged a season-high 46 minutes. He finished with 27-points and six assist and continues to look more comfortable in the offense, especially as a distributor. Carter hoisted ten shots from beyond the arc (hitting three) which is still more than you would like to see with his slashing ability.
Lewis finished with 24 points, his highest output since early January. He was very aggressive in the early going and got off to a quick start for the second straight game, scoring seven points in the first quarter. In the past two games, the Magic seem to be putting an emphasis on finding Lewis shots early to get him going. Lewis also contributed on the glass with Howard hampered by foul trouble yet again, grabbing 11 rebounds to match a season-high.
After playing just 14 minutes in the first half, Howard picked up his fourth foul while setting a screen twelve seconds into the third quarter. It seemed an opportune time for the Heat to capitalize, but the Magic actually went on to out-rebound the Heat by 10 in the quarter while establishing a lead. Howard was whistled for his fifth personal later in overtime and also picked up his 15th technical foul of the season after slamming the ball to the ground in frustration. Howard will now receive a mandated one-game suspension for each technical he receives for the remainder of the season. He doesn’t get enough calls on the offensive end and gets called for too many on the defensive end, and as frustrating as that must be, he needs to control himself and stop staring down refs and throwing his arms in the air in protest because it’s only making matters worse.
Dwyane Wade wasn’t about to let the Magic do to him what they did to fellow superstar Tim Duncan on Wednesday. The Magic were able to hold Duncan to five points on 1-for-10 from the field, the worst shooting night of his career. Wade took advantage of a banged-up defensive unit by scoring 36 points. Matt Barnes – who had another solid all-around game despite his sprained toe – drew the assignment and didn’t get much of a break with back-up perimeter defender, Mickael Pietrus, out with a sprained ankle.
J.J. Redick spent some time on Wade but his shining moment of the night came in the form of an assist. In the second quarter, Redick lobbed an in-bound pass to Marcin Gortat, who came around Carter’s screen, to throw down the alley oop. A play we have see from Howard (and sadly Courtney Lee, who was unable to convert at the end of Game 2 of the Finals in a play that still haunts my dreams) but never Gortat.
Coming off a lethargic effort in their previous back-to-back against Charlotte on Sunday, the Magic improve to 9-8 in the second game of back-to-backs but seem much better suited for the stretched-out playoff scheduling format. They have also won 10 of their last 11 games with most coming in convincing fashion where the result wasn’t in doubt like it was tonight.
But a blown lead is better than no lead at all. As we have seen recently, the Magic are good enough to build them. They just have to make sure they keep them.