Cohen: Magic-Heat Storylines
By Josh Cohen
March 3, 2011
THIS WAS SPECIAL
If it had not been used before and I was a play-by-play announcer, here would be the appropriate call:
"The most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heart-rending, exciting, thrilling comeback in the history of the NBA!"
Okay, I realize this is a replication from the words Joe Starkey articulated so well back in 1982 after the miracle play from the Cal-Stanford football game (WATCH). But come on, the Orlando Magic’s epic victory over their in-state rivals, the Miami Heat, was just as exhilarating and astounding.
If you asked anyone at American Airlines Arena at halftime after LeBron James and Dwyane Wade erupted with extraordinary scoring performances if the Magic had a chance to win, only the Magic’s players and the coaching staff probably figured they had a remote chance of such an accomplishment.
You can credit Orlando’s poise, second-half stifling defense, timely and resolute 3-point shooting, impeccable execution or even the assistance from any of the Magic supporters that were in attendance in the crowd.
There are probably infinite reasons why the Magic overcame a 24-point deficit – the second largest comeback victory in team history – but what is so spine-tingling about this win is that Orlando did it when everyone watching on TNT probably ruled it practically impossible.
It’s somewhat paradoxical that exactly one month ago at Amway Center, the Magic nearly overcame a 23-point deficit but a last attempt to tie it rimmed off. On Thursday after Orlando erased its deficit, it was Miami that had an opportunity to pull even in the closing seconds.
But in what has become a recent trend, LeBron James missed a potential game-tying 3-point attempt in the final seconds. He also failed to convert on similar critical shots against Chicago and New York over the last week.
In no way am I trying to exaggerate the significance of this victory because let’s be real, it’s just the regular season. However, when you consider the opponent, the prior outlook from some that this team was decaying and the fact that the Magic won without Dwight Howard enjoying another spectacular offensive performance, this was a triumph that deserves additional recognition.
"They are happy," Stan Van Gundy said about his team's locker room mood. "They were tired, but our guys are sharp enough to know it's a great win, one you're proud of."
MOST DESERVING "PLAY OF THE GAME"
Since there wasn’t exactly a “game-winning shot” or one particular play that proved to be the ultimate difference, we must examine the entire fourth quarter to find the deserving “Play of the Game.”
You could make a reasonable case for Jason Richardson’s two 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter that essentially started the furious rally. The Magic went from down nine to three in less than a minute’s span.
Perhaps it was Gilbert Arenas’ two opportune 3-pointers that followed, including one that tied the game at 82 and another that pushed Orlando’s lead to five.
Or how about the bucket that awarded the Magic their first advantage since the early stages of the first quarter -- a Ryan Anderson layup with 7:38 remaining in the game.
We need to also consider the Magic’s consistent free throw shooting down the stretch. Dwight Howard shot a perfect 4-for-4 from the stripe in the fourth and Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick combined to bury three in the final 20 seconds.
Outside of Orlando’s unyielding offensive outburst, however, the team’s defensive approach may have been even more deserving.
Quentin Richardson, for one, held LeBron James scoreless in the final period and also helped limit Dwyane Wade to just four total points and no field goals in the second half.
Howard, naturally, protected the paint with so much intimidation – denying the Heat from attacking on nearly every possession late.
Irrespective of which shot or play you think is most deserving, this win was a collective effort and virtually every second of the inspiring fourth quarter warrants consideration.
TALE OF TWO HALVES
It certainly felt like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were a couple of actors in a family-fun hoops movie or sitcom playing in some frenzied basketball game and every shot they attempted somehow effortlessly slid through the net.
It was like that one episode of Fresh Prince of Bel Air where Will is the star player on his high school basketball team and every circus shot he fired up at the rim went in. (WATCH)
At one point I thought I heard that cheesy background melody you tend to hear in a television show or film during an extended scene where there is all action and no dialogue.
James and Wade simply couldn’t miss in the first half (combined for 47 points). It wasn’t even as though they were relentless at attacking the rim. Every turnaround, fadeaway or spot up jump shot they launched landed exactly where they wanted it.
In some ways, amusingly, their performance described what a lot of NBA enthusiasts expected of them when they united together last summer.
However, the second half was a completely different show. In what was originally intended to be a playful, family-friendly flick for Heat fans to commemorate, the program became a horror film in the fourth quarter.
James, for one, was held scoreless in the final frame and missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds. Wade, similarly, recorded only four points, didn't connect on a field goal in the entire second half and even missed four consecutive free throws in one stretch.
"We continue to get big leads and continue to falter," said James, who finished with 29 points.
Who knew that Air Le-Wade would turn into Nightmare on South Beach after intermission.
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What was your reaction after the final horn sounded in the Magic's win over the Heat on Thursday?