By John Denton
December 31, 2012
ORLANDO – An Orlando Magic team that evolved into one of the NBA’s most surprising squads early in the season powered through the loss of four injured players and a frustrating losing streak on Monday and authored yet another major surprise.
In arguably its most stirring effort of the season, Orlando pushed the defending champion Miami Heat to the brink while riding a record-setting effort from steadily blossoming center Nikola Vucevic and delighting the largest crowd to ever see a Magic game most of the day.
But in the end, when J.J. Redick’s cross-court pass was picked off by Dwyane Wade, the Magic’s stellar effort died and they had to try and subsist on the positives from a 112-110 overtime loss to Miami before the record crowd of 19,311 at the Amway Center.
There was much to feel good about on this day, namely Vucevic’s 29 rebounds that broke Shaquille O’Neal’s 19-year-old franchise record of 28 boards. But when the Magic (12-19) blew a four-point lead in the final minute of regulation and turned the ball over with 10 seconds to play to miss out on a chance to tie it in overtime, they had to stomach their sixth straight loss.
``It was a great character game for us and it showed that we’re going to continue to fight, but you’d like to do those things in a win,’’ muttered Magic guard Arron Afflalo, who had a team-high 28 points. ``We needed to taste winning again, so this is tough.’’
Playing without Jameer Nelson (sore hip), Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis (shoulder sprain), E’Twaun Moore (elbow sprain) and Gustavo Ayon (thigh contusion), the Magic weathered an early punch from Miami (21-8) and led by as much as 11 points in the second half. Orlando was up 99-95 with 67 seconds left in regulation, but two Chris Bosh layups tied it up. And then LeBron James took over, scoring 10 of his game-high 36 points in overtime.
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