Magic season ends with thud at bottom


If the season's goal was to collect the most ping pong balls in the NBA Draft Lottery — while incidentally seeing plenty of growth in the young players amassed in the various trades in the remaking of this roster.

Mission accomplished.

Sorry if I do not seem overly excited about this prospect. It is not the fact that this is considered a weak draft at the top or that it was completely unexpected.

Orlando had a lot of work to do this year just to stay in games on a nightly basis and the team largely performed admirably. Nikola Vucevic was a revelation at center, providing consistent rebounding and a solid offensive game. Tobias Harris was acquired in a trade and proved to be a promising prospect for the future. Maurice Harkless improved seemingly daily as a 19-year-old rookie. And the veterans kept the boat steady, ensuring the Magic were approaching games the right way.

Still, you are what your record says you are. And after a 105-93 loss to the Heat at American Airlines Arena in the season finale Wednesday, the Magic's record says they are 20-62, the worst record in the league. Orlando will have a 25 percent chance of winning the May 21 NBA Draft Lottery.

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Whether you wanted it or not, that statement leaves a bitter taste for what was a season of growth for many of the young players.

Certainly the effort in Miami was uncharacteristic of a team that played hard every minute even if they could not always execute with enough consistency to win every night.

The Heat pulled the Magic defense apart and hit 12 of 29 3-pointers with Rashard Lewis making three for 16 points, Mike Miller hitting six on his way to 21 points and Ray Allen hit two for 10 points. Dwyane Wade played only 23 minutes and scored 21 points. LeBron James and Chris Bosh sat out the game waiting for the Playoffs.

Orlando was scrambling on defense and often got caught doubling the wrong guy, switching too much on the perimeter creating mismatches and giving driving lanes to Wade to create in the limited time that he played. Miami spread the floor and took a 10-point lead they never quite surrendered.

The Magic were generally able to create offensively. They shot 51.9 percent from the floor, although just 2 for 14 from beyond the arc and 11 for 25 from the foul line. Orlando could score. So long as the Magic were not turning the ball over or missing free throws, they had a chance.

Nikola Vucevic scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Tobias Harris added 19 points and eight rebounds. Beno Udrih had 13 points and 14 assists and Andrew Nicholson added 12 points off the bench.

Orlando twice cut the lead to two points in the third quarter and seemed like it would have a shot at ending the season with a win.


The defensive shortcomings showed through though. The Heat found 3-pointers from Lewis or Miller on some good ball movement or inside-out movement with the Magic, again, switching on every screen. Miami took advantage of every mismatch and Orlando was slow to rotate.

That might be a young team still learning how to anticipate, rotate and play defense together. Or it might be a young team looking forward to the offseason.

Either way, losing sucks. Losing in this way — seeing a close game and a chance to feel good balloon into a blowout in the fourth quarter — seemed a bit cruel. A stark reminder of how far the Heat (even without their stars) are that much better than the league's worst team.

That is a title Orlando should not get used to.

The hunger to get better and improve for 2014 should begin now as the book of the 2013 season closes.