Kim Klement/USA TODAY
The Heat gave the Magic fair warning of what was to come in the opening five minutes of the game. There Miami turned missed shot after missed shot into bucket after bucket to build a 16-0 lead.
That is what a defending championship team does. They attack and distribute, taking advantage of every little mistake when their attention is turned to high.
Orlando fought back and even took a 32-31 lead behind Arron Afflalo's 20 first-half points. That second adjustment beyond the eye of the storm would prove to be too much for the Magic.
The Heat outscored the Magic 66-42 in the second half, holding the Magic to 41.2 percent shooting in the final 24 minutes while shooting 54.3 percent on their own. A five-point halftime lead ballooned to 36 at one point behind a 20-5 run to open the fourth quarter.
Orlando had no answers defensively and with Nikola Vucevic in foul trouble succumbed to Miami's pressure defense in a 120-92 loss at Amway Center on Wednesday.
"They're really good," Jacque Vaughn said. "LeBron came down and tried to impose his will on the game. They're a team that a lot of times after halftime they make adjustments and they come out kicking it in fourth and fifth gear. LeBron established himself and they have shooters all around. It gets us playing catch up which is tough to do against that team."
James played the entire third quarter to put the game away. He actually only took three field goals and had seven points to go with three assists. His final stat line had him with 21 points and seven assists on 5-for-11 shooting.
James imposed his will in other ways. I am sure he had numerous hockey assists coming out of the attention the Magic gave him in the post. Vaughn said the Heat got on their run thanks to turnovers and transition buckets and James' willingness to pass out of the post and find shooters.
The ball moved quickly around the perimeter and found the Heat's shooters time and time again. Miami made 15 of 24 3-pointers and seemed to have a big shot at the big moments to crush the Magic's spirits.
"They bring the pressure to you and that makes them good," Jameer Nelson said. "They put you in situations ont he defensive end where you have to make adjustments. And on the offensive end, they try to take the ball out of key guys' hands. Trapping and doing things, and they rotate well."
Credit the Magic for making the comeback in the first half. They forced the Heat into turnovers and got a major scoring performance from Afflalo. He scored 14 of Orlando's 20 first-quarter points on 4-for-5 shooting from beyond the arc. He ended the first half with 20 and gained all of the Heat's defensive attention in the second. He ended with 30 points on 7-for-9 shooting from beyond the arc.
Orlando stayed in the game largely behidn their 3-point shooting and Miami's early turnovers. The Magic scored 18 points off the Heat's 22 turnovers and hit 15 of their 29 3-point attempts. Jacque Vaughn said following the game that he was happy with the team's ability to hit 3-pointers at an effective rate. The 15 made 3-pointers tied the Magic's all-time high for most 3-pointers made in a loss.
However, the Magic struggled with their own turnover issues for the entire game and struggled to match up despite using a small-ball lineup most of the game.
Orlando committed 24 turnovers which turned into 30 Miami points. Eight of those turnovers came from Victor Oladipo, starting his first game with Orlando, and five of them came from Jameer Nelson. Add it up and the Magic were getting far too many missteps from their two primary ballhandlers.
"When we make the mistakes that we made in terms of turning the ball over, giving them extra shots, offensive rebounds, it kind of deflates you," Jameer Nelson said. "We have to do a better job of winning the effort game. They have so many weapons out there, it's tough when you give those guys multiple opportunities on the offensive end and when you have the amount of turnovers we had."
Miami's blitzing defense proved to be a problem as Orlando seemed a bit hesitant attacking it. That could explain the large amount of turnovers. It might also explain why the Magic were 10 of 33 in the paint and made more 3-pointers (15) than 2-point shots (14). Orlando was 14 for 42 inside the arc including that 10 of 33 in the paint.
Despite getting to the line 21 times, Orlando was not attacking the pressure defense and the long rebounds were giving Miami the opportunity to score easily in transition.
The Heat also adjusted quickly to the small lineup Jacque Vaughn used, taking advantage of the size and length of some of their perimeter players. Vaughn replaced Jason Maxiell in the lineup with Victor Oladipo, presenting a lineup of ostensibly four guards. It left Nikola Vucevic on an island and he was mired in foul trouble the entire game. The plan to switch all ball screens along the perimeter also often put Oladipo or Doron Lamb defending Rashard Lewis in the post, who was playing the 3.
"Just overall, we knew they were going to go small," Vaughn said. "Their shooting on the floor give us a chance to stay in front of them. Their ability to post up the basketball I think really changed the sequence of the game. LeBron imposing his will on the block, and us having to react. I think in past games we outrebounded them, I think with Nik being in foul trouble that affected it a little bit. But as smalls, the smalls got to get in and rebound as well."
The decision to go small to match Miami backfired immensely, especially since the team was hitting its 3-pointers.
Oladipo said it in his first impressions playing the defending champions. He was impressed with how they share the ball and how their defensive rotations are so crisp and on point. The Heat are a team that have built chemistry and trust over so many years. The Magic are not going to build that overnight. It may not even come this season. It will come though with more experience and more work to build the team and the build the team's core.
Right now, this was a growing pain the young club had to go through. And wait for their players to take the attention and make the plays LeBron can.
They will not have much time to adjust with the Heat coming up on the schedule once again Saturday.