Dwyane Wade caught a glimpse from LeBron James and briefly motioned with his hand as James crossed mid-court. The Magic, like they seemed to most of the afternoon, were reduced to spectators. James flipped the pass with so much ease over the receding transition defense. Over Ryan Anderson, completely unaware that Wade was flying in behind him.
This was the Miami Heat we expected to see when James “took his talents to South Beach.” This is the Miami Heat at their frighteningly efficient best.
Yes, Miami allowed Orlando back into the game in losing that 11-point first-quarter lead. Yes, Miami only scored 90 points in the game. None of that mattered when you look at the body language from the Magic late in this one or focus on the feeling you have after the Heat dismantled the Magic and ended a four-game win streak that had Magic fans feeling a little bit more optimistic.
We know it is Chicago, Miami and everyone else in the Eastern Conference after the quick work Miami did to Orlando in a 90-78 victory at American Airlines Arena on Sunday.
The Heat made their move to take a double-digit lead into the locker room and never relinquished it. The Magic, relying heavily on 3-point shooting to get rid of the early deficit, scored only 12 points in the second quarter and saw that strong effort evaporate.
It was not so much that the team got beat up. Orlando just could not make a run. There was no opportunity. Miami did not let it happen.
The Magic shot 36.5 percent for the game and just 16 for 45 (35.6 percent) on two-point field goals. All that credit goes to the Heat defense. They had a great strategy and executed their gameplan perfectly. This was Miami at its apex.
The plan was simple to combat Orlando’s 3-point shooting and ball movement that killed Miami in the first game. The Heat used LeBron James as a rover and blitzed the ball handler on the pick and roll. Whoever was guarding those positions showed hard on the ball handler and refused to let him turn the corner or have a passing lane.
Here is where Turkoglu’s lack of athleticism and Nelson and J.J. Redick‘s lack of size really hurt Orlando. These ballhandlers had nowhere to go. When they could get the ball around, Miami was very quick and fluid on its rotations. There seemed to be a Heat player right in front of every Magic player after every pass. The Heat were just a step ahead on that end.
And when Dwight Howard got the ball? The Heat swarmed him. Orlando’s most effective play was to have Howard get the ball in the post and find a shooter with a small window to shoot. That is how Orlando made mini runs throughout the game. But the Heat were able to close the door pretty quickly and force turnovers and mid-range jumpers and contested, hurried shots late in the shot clock.
The Magic rarely had any flow offensively.
J.J. Redick had a good game early, playing with a lot of energy in scoring 17 points. Howard was not great, and certainly not the presence defensively he needed to be. Dwyane Wade (27 points, 13-for-23 shooting) paraded to the rim in the first half and throughout the game without Howard challenging him much. LeBron James “added” 25 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Howard had only 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting, also grabbing 15 rebounds.
It was just a quiet offensive day. Quentin Richardson had his moments in the second-quarter comeback and looked good with 10 points and nine rebounds. Glen Davis had 12 points, even though he made just three of his 10 shots. Von Wafer scored nine points, mostly in garbage time.
It was hard to find any positives though. The Magic looked lifeless and complacent defensively. Every missed shot seemed to end with a head down and jog to the other end.
Miami, again, was on another level. The Heat raced past the Magic, moved the ball and attacked from the very beginning. And that goes for both ends.
Orlando did not seem ready to match that effort early and could not sustain it enough after coming back to tie the game in the second quarter. If anything, Miami showed Orlando the kind of consistent effort and aggression this team will need.
In all likelihood, the Magic are not as bad as they played tonight. But, on the same token, you have to wonder how you don’t get up for a game like this. Fortunately, we can find out how Orlando responds against Milwaukee on Monday night.