Postgame Report: Magic vs. Heat (3/1/14)

By John Denton
March 1, 2014

MIAMI – Some of the brightest minds in basketball are gathered at the M.I.T. Sloan Sports Analytics conference this week in suburban Boston, including Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins and GM Rob Hennigan.

The conference centers around the study of analytics in basketball and how the compilation of various data can be used to make basketball players more efficient and effective.

Roughly 1,500 miles away, the Miami Heat put on a clinic of their own in efficiency and effectiveness on Saturday night at American Airlines Arena and gave the youthful Magic an example to strive for in the years ahead.

LeBron James (20 points) made eight of 12 shots with his clear protective mask, Dwyane Wade (24 points) hit 10 of 14 tries and Chris Bosh (17 points) drilled five of eight attempts as the surging Heat shot a scorching 58.1 to dispatch the Magic 112-98 on Saturday night.

``It’s tough against them because you have to do the right thing every possession and basketball is a game played with mistakes. They just always capitalize on your mistakes,’’ said Magic center Kyle O’Quinn, who had 14 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. ``Overall we did a decent job. … They’re the two-time champions and that’s the team that you want to model. There’s a reason why they won it, so you want to strive where they are.’’

Orlando (18-43) played quite well offensively and hung with the Heat (42-14) for almost three quarters, but Miami slowly pulled with its numbingly consistent and highly efficient offense. The Heat scored 32, 29 and 28 points in the first three quarters while making 60 percent of their field goals. Orlando was within seven points of the lead midway through the third period, but James and Wade delivered a knockout blow by making shot after contested shot. And when James drilled a spinning jumper in front of the Magic bench as his momentum carried him behind the backboard, the rout was on.

The Heat, winners of seven straight and second in the East standings, swept the season series from the Magic for a second straight season.

``They are the most efficient team in the NBA, and it’s the entire team,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``That’s done with LeBron setting people up and getting the shots that they want and they’re not rushed. And they get out in transition and they get layups. That helps them as well.’’

Magic centers Nikola Vucevic (18 points and 10 rebounds) and O’Quinn continued to expose Miami’s shortcomings in the middle. Tobias Harris got off to a strong start and finished with 20 points, while Maurice Harkless added 14 points for his third straight solid game. Jameer Nelson chipped in 11 assists, while Victor Oladipo (10 points) struggled through a two-of-six shooting night.

``They do such a good job of moving the ball, driving and kicking and making plays for each other. They are very unselfish and they have a good offense,’’ Vucevic said. ``It’s hard to guard them. We scored against them, but we just couldn’t get stops. To beat a team like that you have to get stops.’’

The Magic will be back in action on Sunday night at the Amway Center when they face the slumping Philadelphia 76ers. Orlando won 101-90 in Philadelphia on Wednesday to snap a 16-game road losing streak.

Much of the intrigue heading into the game revolved around the protective mask that James would be wearing to protect his broken nose. He said the NBA made a ``request’’ that he not wear the black mask that he wore on Thursday against New York, and he obliged by going with a clear mask on Saturday.

The Magic hung tough in the first half by making several runs back at the Heat, but they still trailed 61-53 at the break. Orlando got strong play from Harris (14 points), Vucevic (12 points, six rebounds and four offensive boards) and Nelson (eight assists) early on and it shot better than 50 percent from the floor most of the half.

Turnovers, foul trouble and defense were problem areas for the Magic in the opening 24 minutes. Miami turned all six of Orlando turnovers into points to start the game, helping the Heat shoot 61.8 percent from the floor. Vucevic and Oladipo both picked up three first-half fouls, and Oladipo played more than nine minutes of the second quarter without picking up a fourth personal.

``We didn’t have a lot of fastbreaks and sometimes you can’t have a lot of fastbreaks against this team because they speed you up,’’ Vaughn said. ``But we settled down and had some really good opportunities where we executed against them.’’