Orlando Magic Grades: Miami Heat 102, Orlando Magic 97

Terrence Ross returned from injury and had a stellar shooting performance in an Orlando Magic loss. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Terrence Ross returned from injury and had a stellar shooting performance in an Orlando Magic loss. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

102. 110. 97. 38. Final

One play rarely decides a game. Not completely at least.

Rarely does it encapsulate the game completely — with all the potential for success and all the pitfalls that put the team in need of one play to decide the game to begin with.

The Orlando Magic trailed by five late in the game against the Miami Heat and worked their way back in by going inside to Nikola Vucevic. The Magic’s most reliable player broke through the Miami Heat’s swarming defense and did whatever he wanted.

But down three, the team needed a 3-pointer. They turned to their sharpshooter.

With 22 seconds left, the Magic set up an inbound play that would bring Terrence Ross on a curl screen to the top of the key. That was about as good of a 3-point shot as the team could create all things considered.

Terrence Ross missed the shot as the Heat sent three players to contest the shot. He airballed the shot. Al-Farouq Aminu got the rebound and quickly sent it back out to the 3-point line to reset the offense.

That is where things went haywire. Dwayne Bacon fired a contested, fadeaway 3-pointer with plenty of time left on the shot clock and one more timeout. The team was spinning its wheels again.

Michael Carter-Williams gave the Magic one last chance with yet another rebound. But his pass back out to the perimeter, trying to force things to Ross, was too obvious. Jimmy Butler was lurking as he had been all game.

The Magic’s 23rd turnover of the game was the backbreaker, giving the Heat a 102-97 win over the Magic at Amway Center.

The Orlando Magic could not snap their losing streak as turnovers prevented them from taking advantage of heroic efforts from Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross.

Orlando had its opportunities — repeatedly. The team withstood the first punch and found its way to play to stay in the game and have a chance. The Magic rode their two lone regular players all night long.

But the team made too many mistakes repeatedly. Turnover after turnover. The seven first-quarter turnovers helped Miami buy a 12-point lead early. The Magic’s nine turnovers in the fourth quarter led to nine points. A small number but a backbreaker for a team with such little margin for error.

The Magic dropped the game because of their mistakes after another solid defensive effort. Orlando still could use some diversity on offense, but none of it matters if the team cannot protect the ball.

Another opportunity squandered. And with this roster, it feels like those chances will be rare.

NIKOLA VUCEVIC. B+. . C. Orlando Magic

Once Nikola Vucevic figured out the Miami Heat’s defense, it was game over. They had no answer and Vucevic nearly carried the Orlando Magic to the win. He scored 37 points on 15-for-27 shooting. He made six of 13 3-pointers on top of that and grabbed 10 rebounds to six assists. He found a way to avoid the Heat’s double teams and attacked. He scored 21 points and five of his eight 3-pointers in the second half.

It is still hard to erase how much he struggled in the first half to get the team going. And his turnovers were as big a reason for the team’s struggles as anything else. Vucevic had seven turnovers. Some of that is because the Heat surrounded him. Vucevic is still learning how to feel and ward off the blindside steals teams are throwing at him.

It is still a lot. And when Vucevic is on, the Magic can be a dangerous team.

A. . G/F. Orlando Magic. TERRENCE ROSS

These are the games the Orlando Magic get from Terrence Ross that they typically win. When Ross is firing and making shots at this level, the Magic suddenly become a team that can beat anybody. These are the kinds of games the Magic cannot waste from Ross. The fact this came after he missed the last two games was even more surprising.

Ross scored 31 points on 10-for-19 shooting, making 8 of 13 3-pointers. This is what Ross was very good at. It transforms the team. Whether this is something the Magic can rely on every night is another matter. But Ross can still very clearly change games. Orlando needs another option to become a dangerous team again.

. F. Orlando Magic. AL-FAROUQ AMINU. C-

The new rotation debate that is raging among Orlando Magic fans is whether Al-Farouq Aminu should be getting minutes over Chuma Okeke now. That answer, like other rotation decisions before, probably should have an easy answer. But for now, coach Steve Clifford is leaning on the veteran rather than the rookie who seems to be playing better.

Al-Farouq Aminu came up with the big rebound late in the game. But he still looks like a player who is getting his footing after a long layoff. That deserves some time to get himself right. But should he be the one playing in winning time? Aminu is struggling offensively — he scored only two points to go with five rebounds, but he also had four turnovers.

The bigger issue is that Aminu is not giving many benefits offensively. And anything run to his side of the floor is going to lead to double teams. The Magic are fine defensively, and Aminu is solid defensively if not back to where he was before the injury quite yet. They need some offensive weapons.


Michael Carter-Williams is still probably the best option the Orlando Magic have at point guard while the team is dealing with all these injuries. But it is also clear why Carter-Williams has been reduced to an energy role off the bench and why his game fell off after his Rookie of the Year performance.

He just does not do a great job keeping the team organized consistently. He still struggles at times to know when to attack and when to hang back. His drives can be wild and he is not always super tight with his dribble, leading to turnovers and missteps.

When Carter-Williams is good, he is very good still. His five quick points to start the second half helped the Magic stay in the game. And he is still the team’s best defensive option at the position.

B-. . 21-18. 4th East. MIAMI HEAT

The Miami Heat felt relieved to escape. Then again, this team has a lot of confidence in the fourth quarter of games. So relief may not be the right emotion. That confidence can help the team overcome some poor games. This was certainly one of them.

The Orlando Magic gifted the Miami Heat 23 turnovers and they took advantage of them for 26 points. But every other piece of the puzzle was a bit off — outside of Jimmy Butler who turned in 20 of his 29 points in the second half.

The Heat made only 14 of 50 3-pointers for the game. It seemed their offense only went as far as their shooting would take them. The Magic took advantage and eventually broke their pressure defense to find their own way to score. This is not a game Miami would win very often.

dark. Next. Orlando Magic need to build from Lakeland's success

The Magic have now lost eight straight games and have fallen to 13-26, 14th in the Eastern Conference. They trail the Chicago Bulls by five games for the final spot in the play-in tournament.

The Orlando Magic will have two days of practice before returning to action Thursday in New York against the New York Knicks.