Miami Overcomes Montenegrin March Madness
Between all the shaky fouls going in Miami’s favor, and the refs keeping their whistles quiet whenever Miami got illegally physical, the Magic did a spectacular job competing when no one expected them to stand a chance. Tobias Harris drilled a baseline running floater with 52 seconds remaining that would’ve given the Magic a 5-point advantage. Too bad it was an offensive foul and Harris fouled out with 16 points and 7 rebounds. Then with 38 seconds remaining, Vucevic fouled with a career-high tying 25 points as well as 21 rebounds. LeBron would make the game-winning lay-up past DeQuan Jones with 3.2 seconds to go. Orlando had no timeouts and had to settle for an Arron Afflalo halfcourt failed heave to conclude the 97-96 defeat.
The Heat’s winning streak is at 16 thanks to a lot of referee assistance. Miami had 19 more free throw attempts than their visitors. The Magic were also whistled for thirteen personal fouls. LeBron’s game-winner was the first field goal since Chris Andersen’s dunk at the 7:01 mark. I’ll leave it at that. Vucevic’s franchise breaking 29 rebounds on New Year’s Eve got Chris Bosh flat out stating that there would not be a repeat. It wasn’t twenty-nine boards, but Nik was flat out unstoppable at times.
Other than 30.4 FG% and a 7-0 run by Miami to end the first period, Orlando looked quite solid on each end to begin their strange affair. But alas, that run gave the Heat a 25-18 advantage after the initial twelve minutes. Too many sloppy possessions and open looks drilled by Miami allowed the Heat to maintain their comfortable cushion entering the locker rooms. I was amazed to witness LeBron not being able to defend a driving Tobias on a few occasions. James clearly took offence as he would later throw down some vicious dunks and eventually get the last laugh. Afflalo went from hero Monday to first half goat as his 1-of-10 shooting was a big reason why Miami led 55-40 at the break.
A swift 5-0 Miami run out of the third period gates may have initially dashed any dreams and ambitions of ending Miami’s streak. And then Afflalo and Nik went to work. 7 points in the quarter for Arron as well as 10 points and 9 rebounds from Vucevic drove the Orlando comeback. Some fabulous contributions out of Harris and Harkless helped as the Magic only trailed 77-74 heading to the final period. Nik’s two career 20-20 games appropriately come against the Heat.
A 3-pointer by Jameer two minutes into the fourth tied the contest at 79-79. Then a Nelson And 1 at the 9:23 mark handed Orlando their first lead of the evening. The most remarkable sight among certain flashes of brilliance by this squad was watching Vucevic drive baseline with his left hand as he was triple-teamed, only to calmly dish off a pass for an outstanding Harkless jam. Before Maurice unjustly fouled out, and missing out on the Dec. 31st matchup, the 19-year-old put up a wonderful 12 points and played great defense against the ‘Big 3’. The 17-45 Magic should be fully commended for a hell of an effort. Let’s see if they can carry it over to Amway Center on Friday as the Pacers come to O-Town.
Adam Papageorgiou runs Orlando Magic Greek and is a proud MBO contributor.