By John Denton
December 31, 2012
``This is a winning league and you either win or lose,’’ said James, who scored Miami’s first six points of overtime. ``It’s not about how close you came to losing or how close you came to winning. (The Magic) played a great game. They have some really good players and some really good pieces. We just made one more play than they did.’’
Coming on the heels of a blowout home loss to the Toronto Raptors and still winless since Davis went down with a dislocated shoulder two weeks ago, the Magic’s character was bound to be tested on Monday against the Heat. Rookie head coach Jacque Vaughn talked to his squad about sticking together on Sunday and fighting through adversity. And much to his delight, the Magic did just that most of Monday’s game.
``I think it says a lot. We talked about character the other day at the start of practice and how times like this – and after the loss that we had to Toronto it will challenge you with adversity – and this was about how we’d respond,’’ Vaughn said. ``Developing character is not easy. But we really showed a lot of resolve and a lot of fight and I hope our fans appreciated it and I’m proud of our effort.’’
Vucevic has helped steady the Magic all season long on the inside following the trade of Dwight Howard in the offseason. And the 22-year-old center delivered the finest game of his two-year career on Monday. He had 11 rebounds in the second quarter alone, topped his previous career high of 17 early in the third quarter, notched his 20th board late in the third period and had the play of the night when he tipped, tipped, tipped and tipped the ball to himself four times on one play in the fourth. He had 27 rebounds through regulation and got two more in the extra period to eclipse the previous Magic high of 28 set by Shaquille O’Neal on Nov. 20, 1993 against the New Jersey Nets.
``I knew how many rebounds that I had because my teammates were telling me that I was close to 30,’’ said Vucevic, who is now averaging 10.8 points and 10.5 rebounds on the season and helped the Magic hold a 50-33 edge on the glass. ``I only wish we could have won the game.’’
Redick carried the Magic offense for long stretches by making nine of 13 shots and five of nine 3-pointers in a 23-point, five-assist effort. Josh McRoberts played 39 minutes off the bench, guarded James most of the night and chipped in 12 points, six rebounds and three assists.
``I really thought we were going to win that game,’’ a disappointed Redick said. ``So when (losing) happens and it ends the other way, it’s very disappointing.’’
Hedo Turkoglu, playing just his second game after missing eight weeks with a broken hand, had nine points and eight assists. He had to play point guard for long stretches with Nelson and Moore out. He did have five of Orlando’s 17 turnovers. Conversely, Miami had just one turnover in the second half and overtime.
Afflalo outplayed Wade most of the night, making nine of 19 shots, two 3-pointers and hitting eight of nine free throws. Wade had 21 points, but he missed seven of 10 free throws and made only nine of 20 shots. But he had the defensive play of the game when he intercepted a pass from Redick with the Magic trailing 108-106 in the final seconds of overtime.
``I saw Ray (Allen) fall, so I would make that pass 10 out of 10 times. I would never not make that pass to an open teammate,’’ Redick said. ``Turk was doing what he was supposed to do clearing space. It just took him a half-second realizing Ray had fallen because he had to get out of the way. And Dwyane just made a great play.’’
The Magic will practice on Tuesday and face the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday at the Amway Center. Orlando hosts the New York Knicks on Saturday before heading out on a four-game roadtrip to the West Coast.
If the Heat have a weakness, it’s on the inside and the Magic exposed it in the first half when they took a 54-48 lead. Not only did Vucevic equal his career high for offensive rebounds in the first half (seven), but he also had 16 boards in the first 24 minutes. His hustle allowed the Magic to hold a 26-12 edge on the glass in the first half, allowing them to get off four more field goal attempts.
Orlando had to weather an early storm, falling behind by as much as nine points in the first quarter. But Vucevic dominated the game in the second quarter with 11 points and 11 rebounds to get the Magic several extra chances.
A 9-2 start to the second period, highlighted by a Vucevic putback after a missed free throw, got the Magic close and a 12-0 spurt midway through the second quarter put Orlando up 45-40. Redick, who scored 13 first-half points, had eight points during the game-turning run in the second period.
James had 12 points and six assists in the first half, but he made just three field goals. And the Magic did an admirable job of Wade in the first half, forcing him into misses on five of his first six shots. Magic rookie Andrew Nicholson bloodied Wade’s nose with a hard foul on a drive to the hoop early in the game and it seemed to rattle the star shooting guard in the first half.
While disappointed about the loss, Vucevic said it meant more to him to break the Magic rebounding record considering that it was held by O’Neal. The 7-footer felt honored to move into the same company as the legendary former Magic center.
``Shaq was one of the best players who ever played, the most dominant big man to ever play the game,’’ said Vucevic, who had 11 of his 29 rebounds on the offensive end. ``So to break his record means a lot given how dominant he was.’’
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