Resilient Magic no match for LeBron’s heroics

There are a few things teams cannot do under any circumstances against the Heat.

You cannot turn the ball over and allow Miami to get out on the break. You cannot allow the Heat to get those highlight plays that energize the crowd at AmericanAirlines Arena and demoralize their opponents. You cannot allow Miami to take corner threes.

The Magic committed 18 turnovers, leading to 18 points. The Magic allowed the Heat to turn a 10-point lead into a 15-point halftime deficit and then a 20-point lead early on in the third quarter. That run included a fast break alley-oop to LeBron James and a strong tomahawk jam down an open lane. The Heat also took 28 3-pointers, many of them from those dangerous corners.

Despite all that, it was the other thing you cannot allow Miami to do that ended this game.

You cannot leave the game in the hands of the league's best player.

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LeBron James will get what he wants when motivated. And he has the respect of the officials to get the questionable calls. He did not need any questionable call though to finish the game. LeBron James took DeQuan Jones off the dribble and got to the basket for the game-winning layup with three seconds left.

It was enough. The Magic played about as well as they could and had the chance to pull it out. Things — whistles, shots, whatever — did not go their way in a 97-96 loss at AmericanAirlines Arena on Wednesday.

  Score Off. Rtg. eFG% O.Reb.% TO% FTR
Orlando 96 98.7 48.3 36.6 16.0 13.5
Miami 97 100.4 47.3 18.9 15.4 41.9

The Magic though were certainly more than game after falling behidn by 20 points. A recommitment to defense and Nikola Vucevic's extreme hustle on the boards got the Magic back into the game by the end of the quarter. The Heat were not hitting shots they normally make and Vucevic controlling the glass enabled the Magic to get back on their own.

Nikola Vucevic did not quite have 29 rebounds like he did in the first meeting, but his 25 points and 21 rebounds were big in every way. He had nine offensive rebounds and scored 15 points in the second half for Orlando. Much like in the first meeting, Vucevic was getting those tip ins and finding himself in the right spot to clean up the glass.

The defense though was the big thing for the Magic. Tobias Harris was urging his team to commit on that end in the third quarter to spark the comeback and that is what the Magic did.

The Heat shot 43.2 percent for the game and made only 6 of those previously mentioned 28 3-point attempts. Orlando forced 16 turnovers itself and had 16 points off those turnovers.

So many players stepped up for the Magic in big ways.

Maurice Harkless did a standout job on LeBron James for most of the time being matched up with him. He was active on the glass too and hit the shots he was given on his way to 12 points. Tobias Harris too took a turn on James and did a good job too. He added 16 points and seven rebounds.

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However, it was the trio of Vucevic, Harkless and Harris — or rather, there absence — that proved to be the difference in the game. All three fouled out in the late stages of the game and each was critical as all three seemed able to frustrate the Heat's defense.

Vucevic obviously took up a lot of space in the paint and controlled the glass. Harkless was doing a good job keeping James on the perimeter. It was Harris' final foul that proved to be costly.

He was called for a charge as Shane Battier slid beneath him as Harris put up a floater. The floater went in and would have put Orlando up by five points. It was taken off the board and Harris was disqualified from the game.

 

Orlando's execution suffered clearly without these three key players in. The Magic were already not getting the respect from the referees as the Heat went to the line 31 times. In fact, Miami had just one field goal in the final seven minutes of the game — the James game winner.

The foul discrepancy will continue to be a favorite topic of discussion among Magic fans. There were questionable calls that will continue to be debated. The Magic though went cold down the stretch too.

The final make of the game was from Jameer Nelson on a tough fade-away jumper with about a minute and a half left. It gave Orlando a three-point lead.

Orlando did not get anything else the rest of the game. An Al Harrington 3-pointer as the shot clock expired fell off the backboard, then the front rim and no good, setting up James' heroics on the final possession.

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This was an escape for the Heat.

It was also a game the Magic should feel extremely proud of. A moral victory if that is not a dirty word.

Orlando went toe-to-toe with the hottest team in the league and came out feeling like one slipped away. That is certainly true. And certainly Orlando survived an onslaught in the second quarter that could have easily buried the team and left it with no reason to keep playing hard.

The Magic not only continued to play hard — for the second straight game, no less — they looked like they were the better team.

Take that for what it is worth. Against a player like James, it sometimes does not matter how resilient you are.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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