Evan Fournier struggled to shoot last year and a return to the mean would boost the Orlando Magic's offense. (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images) /
The Orlando Magic used a strong defensive second half to quiet the Miami Heat and return to .500 at the end of this long road stretch.
The Orlando Magic’s energy never truly wavered. They were as engaged and active defensively in the second quarter when they fell behind by six points and watched Bam Adebayo throw back every shot at the rim as they were in the fourth quarter when they were flying around and scrambling.
The difference in trailing and winning was truly their offensive energy and output. But it was their defense that paced them the entire way.
It was Jonathan Isaac flying to the ball and deflecting passes to set up the offense. Or Nikola Vucevic walling off the paint and contesting shots with his verticality. Or Aaron Gordon flying in for rebounds to keep the Miami Heat from getting the second-chance opportunies that helped them build the lead.
The Magic shot 30 percent from the floor for much of the first half. They struggled with turnovers — committing nine in the second quarter alone — and those second-chance opportunities. But they cleaned it all up.
Orlando erased the deficit and raced ahead, giving up just 12 points in the third quarter. The Magic dominated defensively and dictated the game. Their ball movement increased and Orlando eased past Miami 105-90 at American Airlines Arena on Tuesday to get back to .500 at 12-12.
In the end, Miami shot just 41.8 percent from the floor and took a total of five free throws. After scoring 30-plus points in the paint in the first half, they ended with 52. Not a great number by any means, but the Magic clearly tightened things up in the second half.
From there, they were able to get their transition game going and get the ball and players moving around the paint once again. Aaron Gordon especially was vital to the Magic restoring their energy and movement on offense. And it was D.J. Augustin, Nikola Vucevic and Jonathan Isaac providing the energy to close things out.
Orlando still had its bench issues throughout the game. It was the second unit that saw Miami take control in the second quarter and cut into the 14-point third-quarter lead at the beginning of the fourth. But the Magic withstood it all and calmly locked in defensively to pull away and win the game.
All the more important considering the Heat entered the game in ninth in the East and now the Magic hold at least a tie in the season series.
The Orlando Magic return home Wednesday to take on the Denver Nuggets.