Orlando Magic take back their arena in win over Miami Heat

Apr 8, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9) and guard Victor Oladipo (5) high five against the Miami Heat during the first half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 8, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9) and guard Victor Oladipo (5) high five against the Miami Heat during the first half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Miami Heat have dominated the Orlando Magic for much of the past four years. Finally the Orlando Magic took it all back defeating the Miami Heat.

38. 109. 110. Final. 112

The chants started not in earnest but with bravado, adding juice to an otherwise sleepy late-season game.

“Let’s go Heat! Let’s go Heat!”

It is not uncommon for visiting fans to come to Amway Center and make their voices heard. The New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls had long been able to pack the Amway Center and even the Orlando Arena with their colors. But they could always get drowned out. The answer always seemed to be there.

Not with the Heat this year. In their two visits to Orlando more than any other team, they let their presence be felt. The team itself has left the Magic disappointed and disheartened time and time again.

It may have taken a little longer — and perhaps some work from game operations — but those Heat fans were finally drowned out at the Amway Center. But the greatest tool to bringing the Magic fans out and getting them to quiet down was what happened on the scoreboard.

The Magic won.

“It’s all about heart, pride and going out and finishing the season the best we can,” C.J. Watson said. “It’s not the circumstances we want. We want to go out and play hard and try to win these last three or four games.”

No doubt the Magic are not where they want to be. They wanted to turn that corner and make the Playoffs. They had the worst record in the league for the last three years combined  and were desperate for something concrete this season.

The team improved, but not enough to get into the playoffs. The Miami Heat, the team that had the superstar trio and the championships that still resonate with hangers on and transplants, are the ones that will be going to the Playoffs from the Sunshine State.

Their bandwagon and fan base grows while the Magic stagnated. And it felt that way inside Amway Center.

Then the tide turned. The Magic fans became engaged as the team started pushing for the lead and competing. Their heart was evident on the floor. The fans responded to that and awoke.

This is a fan base that is dormant and hungry for something to latch onto. They have found it with the way this team is playing late in this season.

This game was almost certainly personal though. The Heat have had the Magic’s number. Orlando has won just once against Miami since the Dwight Howard trade and had not defeated Miami in the Amway Center since March 2012. In that time period there have been tough losses and bad beats — blown leads, buzzer-beating shots, record performances all for naught.

With the crowd as charged as it was, it was hard not to feel the emotion. The players certainly felt it. Evan Fournier said the somewhat raucous crowd provided energy to the team — both of defiance and support.

These are not he first group of players to experience a hostile home crowd. The reality of the NBA is that there are certain fan bases and players who travel everywhere. This is not news.

What was meaningful was this game and this opponent. There was a sense of satisfaction in giving the Magic fans a reason to speak up and shut the Heat fans up — even if the players will not admit it.

This was a meaningful win for them. A sign of their continuing maturity and a hill they needed to climb.

“When we play like we did tonight, we’re a pretty good team,” Nikola Vucevic said. “We were consistent with it and we lost it. For us to play 48 minutes like that against a team like the Heat is great for us. They are a great team. They never let you go away.”

The Magic are under no impressions that this win makes up for the final result of their season. It was more a psychological victory. One that can win fans over and re-establish their place within this intrastate rivalry. A reason to puff their chest out, even if for a moment.

That belief and confidence gets tested again as Orlando heads to Miami on Sunday.

“I don’t think there is any adjustment to make, we just have to play harder,” Evan Fournier said. “They are fighting for the third seed, they are going to be very angry.”

It is good though that the Magic poked the bear. It is good that the Magic came out a winner — finally — against this team. Those are the kind of wins this team has found harder and hard to find throughout the season.

As this year ends, the Magic are making some kind of statement about their future. Hopefully others are beginning to realize this.

Next: Orlando Magic get heart-fought win

With this one, hopefully the team is gaining that confidence too.