Magic Play Against Dwyane Wade for Final Time in Regular Season

by John Denton

MIAMI – When Miami Heat superstar guard Dwyane Wade proclaimed recently that he could easily play another ``two or three seasons’’ if he wanted to, it had to send a seismic shudder from South Florida all the way up to Orlando.

But when the retiring Wade finished his statement by stressing, ``I wanted to walk away,’’ that undoubtedly had to make those same people in Orlando – many of them Magic fans – quite happy.

Wade, 37, announced last summer that he would retire following this season, and he’s stuck to that plan even though he’s averaged 14.3 points, 4.0 assists and 3.8 rebounds and he’s even picked things up of late to drive the Heat into the playoff chase again.

Tuesday’s game at American Airlines Arena was Wade’s 53rd and final one in the regular season against the Magic. In 16 NBA seasons – most of them with the Heat – Wade has had his share of big games against the Magic, but not as many as one might expect despite often playing Orlando four times a season.

In his first 52 games against the Magic, Wade has scored 30 or more 11 times. That is tied for fourth on Wade’s list of opponents he’s hit the 30-point plateau against. Wade has 14 30—point games against Toronto and Indiana and 12 against New York. He has 11 against Orlando, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Golden State.

Coming into Tuesday, Wade had averaged 23.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists while shooting 50.1 percent from the floor and 23.8 percent from 3-point range against the Magic. He has averaged more points a game against eight other NBA teams (Portland, Golden State, Utah, Minnesota, Toronto, Cleveland, New York and Sacramento).

Magic coach Steve Clifford, a veteran of 19 NBA seasons, said he will always remember Wade for his will to win.

``There’s no greater compliment, right?’’ Clifford said, referring to Wade as a ``winner’’ throughout his career. ``From the time that he first entered the league, he always wanted the ball in big spots and he always played great in fourth quarters. I mean, playoffs, championship series and everything else, he’s a winning player. And like all of the other great, great players, he got better every year.’’

Miami also used Tuesday’s game to retire former all-star forward Chris Bosh’s No. 1 jersey. Bosh, a two-time champion and an 11-time all-star, played for the Heat from 2010-17 before having to retire because of recurring blood clots. He ranks fifth in scoring, seventh in rebounding, seventh in blocks and 10thin minutes in Heat history.

In 39 career regular-season games against the Magic – both with Toronto and Miami – Bosh averaged 20.7 points and 8.7 rebounds while shooting 51 percent from the floor and 52.2 percent from 3-point range.

SUNSHINE STATE RIVALRY? While the Magic and Heat share the Sunshine State and certainly a healthy disdain for one another, theirs is not necessarily a rivalry because of the manner in which the two franchise’s glory days have never coincided.

Other than a first-round playoff series in 1997 – won 3-2 by a Miami team that held off the upstart Magic after Penny Hardaway heated up mid-series – the two have never played with much on the line. That, of course, changed on Tuesday with a playoff bid hanging in the balance.

How rare is that the Magic and Heat are in contention at the same time? In addition to playing just once in the playoffs, the two squads have both been in the postseason simultaneously just 10 times in 30 years. Not once in those 10 times did both teams advance past the first round of the playoffs.

When the Magic went to the NBA Finals in 1995 with a 57-25 record and to the East Finals in 1996 with a 60-22 mark, the Heat had 32 and 42 wins. When the Heat reached the East Finals in 2005 and won the title in 2006, the Magic had 36 wins both years.

When the Magic dominated the East in 2009 (59 wins, reached the NBA Finals) and 2010 (59 wins, reached East Finals), Miami won 43 and 47 games and lost in the first round of the playoffs both times. And when the Heat dominated the league from 2010-14 (two titles and four Finals trips) with LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, the Magic lost twice in the first round of the playoffs and twice struggled through the early stages of rebuilding.

KEEPING THE CORE TOGETHER: With the Heat and Magic in relatively close proximity and squaring off four times a season, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has looked on from afar as the Magic have mostly struggled the previous six seasons. In that time, Orlando cycled through head coaches Jacque Vaughn James Borrego, Scott Skiles and Frank Vogel before finally hiring Clifford last May.

For the first time seven years, the Magic are challenging the Heat for a playoff bid in the Eastern Conference. Spoelstra, a two-time title winning coach a playoff participant in eight of the last 10 seasons, knows a thing or two about building a winning culture with an NBA franchise. He said that while all-star center Nikola Vucevic, Clifford and the improvement of Orlando’s young players deserve some of the credit for the improvement this season, it’s the stability within the organization that is actually the biggest reason for the growth.

``Well, they’ve stayed with it. It’s tough to build cultures when you’re constantly making changes,’’ Spoelstra said. ``They’ve got a core of guys that they’ve stayed with and they’ve gotten better.

``We respect Steve Clifford as much as anybody. We’ve been in playoff battles against him and we know how good he is and what kind of culture he brings to the table,’’ Spoelstra added. ``Their young players have certainly gotten better over the course of the year and Vucevic has had a career-best year. That’s a credit to everybody committing to each other and not just expecting another big change.’’

UP NEXT: The Magic were scheduled to stay in Miami following Tuesday night’s game and they will spend a large chunk of Wednesday flying to Detroit where they will face the Pistons on Thursday.

Prior to play on Tuesday, Detroit sat 1 ½ games ahead of Orlando in the Eastern Conference standings. The Pistons lost to Portland (Saturday) and Golden State (Sunday) prior to ending their road trip in Denver on Tuesday.

Orlando will need to win in Detroit to draw even in the season series after dropping two of the first three meetings. If the Magic could knot the season series at 2-2 and win the Southeast Division, they would hold the tiebreaker over Detroit should the teams end up with identical records.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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