Denton: Magic-Heat Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
February 3, 2011

ORLANDO – Down to just 11 healthy bodies because of various bumps and bruises and down 23 points with 7 minutes to play to the arch-rival Miami Heat, the Orlando Magic looked very much like a broken basketball team late Thursday night.

And for good reason after LeBron James had rained in jump shots from all corners of the Amway Center and the Magic had one jumper and free throw after another miss most of the night.

But when James finally pouring in the points and the Magic started making a few shots of their own, they impossibly and incredibly had a try to tie in the final seconds. But when that shot didn’t go down, the Magic ultimately did in a manner few expected.

A furious, fighting fourth-quarter rally allowed the Magic to save face, but it didn’t allow them to save a victory. Instead, the Heat were able to escape the Amway Center with a 104-100 victory and a dazzling one-man performance from James.

James registered his first 50-point effort in a Miami uniform, pouring in 51 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and handing out eight assists. But what had to leave the sellout crowd buzzing was Orlando’s stunning climb back into contention, one that went from 23 points to three in a matter of minutes.

But Ryan Anderson couldn’t connect on a 25-footer with 6.9 seconds to play, ending the rally and forcing the Magic to contemplate what might have been had their spirited play started earlier in the night.

``It wasn’t one of those phone comebacks where we’re down 23 and we just close it to eight; we had a shot to tie the game,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``And considering that we had no timeouts and the way executed and got a great look, you have to take that. I’m not happy with the way we played the rest of the game, but the comeback was good and legit.’’

The Magic (31-19) got double-figure scoring production from five players, but not nearly enough to offset the 17 of 25 shooting night from James. He also made three of five 3-pointers and 14 of 17 free throws for the eighth 50-point performance of his career. James did plenty of trash-talking during and after the game, saying that facing the Magic motivated him.

``Just playing this team got me going,’’ James said. ``We understand that it wasn’t just any regular season game. There were a lot of things said about us in the offseason that came from this organization. So we just wanted to come in here and play to our abilities and make a statement.’’

Miami (35-14) now holds a 4.5-game lead on the Magic in the standings and a 2-1 lead in the season series. The two teams play a final time in South Florida on March 3.

``I’m pretty sure when we see those guys again it will be a lot different. And we’ll see those guys in the playoffs, too,’’ said Magic franchise center Dwight Howard, who had 17 points, 16 rebounds and played all 48 minutes, but scored just one point in the second half.

Here is a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from Thursday’s nationally televised game between the Magic and Heat: