Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY
LeBron James is the best player in the world. There just is no other way to say that statement.
And the best player in the world will step up when his team needs him to. He did that Wednesday when he helped pick apart the Magic defense. He did that in the second half after Miami was caught in a malaise, making six of his seven field goals in the second half. The final one is what finally sank Orlando.
James pulled up over Arron Afflalo for a free throw line jumper with 15 seconds remaining to deliver a 101-99 win. The Magic's answer came in the form of Arron Afflalo driving into the lane and trying to hit a shot over three Heat defenders. Victor Oladipo picked up the rebound and missed a short jumper as the clock expired.
A really strong effort on both ends of the floor was wasted behind the star power of James and Dwyane Wade.
James finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Wade awoke in the second half to lead Miami back from a large halftime deficit to make this a game. Wade finished with 27 points on 9-for-16 shooting.
The first half and much of the game was about how much better the Magic were playing than in the last game Wednesday night.
Orlando seemed embarrassed by the blowout at home and the team reacted and adjusted well in this return matchup in South Florida. Orlando kept Miami off the 3-point line in the first half, something the team did not do well against Miami in the first matchup. The Magic rotated and got out to shooters much better. They were consistently in the right spot and able to cut off the Heat.
Offensively, the Magic moved the ball really well and looked to attack and kick out.
Arron Afflalo continued his strong run of play with 18 points (on 7-for-17 shooting). The surprises though came off the bench as Orlando built a 16-point halftime lead. That came from Glen Davis, who scored a team-high 20 points including a game-tying and-1 in the fourth quarter. E'Twaun Moore added 14 points, making all five of his field goals and four 3-pointers. Victor Oladipo played well too, attacking and finishing at the rim to 17 points on eight field goal attempts.
Orlando's offense was able to go toe-to-toe with Miami even as Miami was coming back and fighting its way into the game. The Magic remained confident they could score.
Eventually, though, the Magic's youth and inexperience (and maybe some questionable lineup combinations) caught up with them. The Heat put a little more effort into the second half after a sleepy first half where they did not hit any 3-pointers. James opened up the second half with a 3-pointer and Miami hit five in the third quarter as they roared back.
The Heat forced the Magic into more turnovers and made them think just a little bit more. Miami's defense is already tough to crack even when the team isn ot crisp. The Heat were definitely more into the game later on.
There were key moments when the Magic simply turned the ball over or failed to execute. This is what good teams do. They force the bad teams into mistakes at key moments and out-execute team, even when things are going wrong for them.
Orlando had 17 turnovers on the game. That is simply too much, particularly in those key moments against a team of the Heat's caliber. Miami continued to find big plays or get to the line when the game was on the line. Credit where credit is due then. Another learning lesson for the Magic players and coaches.
The Magic should be happy not to see the Heat again. They should be disappointed that this kind of an effort did not net them a win.
Unfortunately, Orlando's ultimate goal and Miami's ultimate goal are pretty distant from each other right now. The Heat just know how to finish off teams like the Magic in the end.