Magic Come Up Short Against Heat in First Game After All-Star Break

by Josh Cohen

The Lead

The Orlando Magic hung tough with the Miami Heat on Thursday for three-plus quarters. But down the stretch, it was Miami’s excellent zone defense and Jimmy Butler’s aggressiveness on the other end that propelled the Heat to a 111-103 victory and sent the Magic to their sixth straight loss. Nikola Vucevic led the injury-ravaged Magic with 24 points and 17 rebounds, while Dwayne Bacon scored a season-high 21 points.

Top Performer

Having coached Bacon for a season in Charlotte, Steve Clifford was aware coming into the year what the 6-foot-6, 221-pounder can do when he’s in attack mode. With Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross out of action, the Magic needed the 25-year-old to deliver on the offensive end, and that he did, going 6-of-15 from the field, 3-of-5 from 3-point range and 6-of-6 from the free throw line.

Injury Report

Aaron Gordon, who had missed Orlando’s last 15 games with a sprained left ankle, returned and had nine points in 14 minutes. Out for the Magic were Cole Anthony (non-displaced fracture, right rib), Fournier (strained left groin), Ross (sore left knee), Markelle Fultz (torn ACL, left knee), James Ennis III (sore left calf) and Jonathan Isaac (torn ACL, left knee). The Heat were without Bam Adebayo (left knee soreness) and Avery Bradley (strained right calf).

Key Stretch

A seesaw battle most of the game, the Heat pulled away from the Magic midway through the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run. Butler, who posted 27 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists, had an alley-oop dunk and a pair of free throws during that stretch, while Tyler Herro made a driving layup and Kelly Olynyk sank two foul shots.

Key Stat

Taking care of the ball is something the Magic usually do well. But against Miami that’s a tough task considering the Heat are one of the best in the league at creating opponent turnovers. Orlando turned the ball over 14 times on Thursday, four of them in the fourth. Some of them were passing mishaps, others tied to sloppy ball handling and a few caused by Miami’s defensive peskiness.

The Sidebar

Earlier in the day, the Lakeland Magic won the 2021 G League championship at Walt Disney World. Devin Cannady, who was with Orlando during training camp and the preseason, scored a game-high 22 points and was named Finals MVP. Lakeland won five of their last six regular season games before defeating the Erie BayHawks and Santa Cruz Warriors in the first two rounds of the playoffs and the Delaware Blue Coats in the finals.

Quote of the Night

“AG coming back is huge for us. He’s a huge part of what we do, one of our best players. He’s very versatile on the court, on both ends of the floor. He can guard multiple positions. He can play multiple positions. His size also gives us a big boost. Definitely good to have him back. Obviously, we know it’s going to take him some time to get back into rhythm.” – Vucevic on Gordon

Up Next

The Magic are back in action on Friday night when they visit San Antonio for a clash with the Spurs, who lost their most recent game against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. DeMar DeRozan led the Spurs in that contest with 30 points and 11 assists, while Patty Mills scored 14 points off the bench. San Antonio is currently 18-15 and in seventh place in the West.

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