Of course the story of Tuesday night surrounded Dwight Howard’s postgame comments, but while the basketball word focuses on what Howard is going to do, his Orlando Magic earned one of their most impressive wins of the season, rallying from a 14-point deficit to defeat the Miami Heat 104-98.
Dwight Howard had 24 points and 25 rebounds while Jameer Nelson played perhaps his best game of the season, scoring 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting. Dwyane Wade led all scorers with 28 points.
An intense and well-played first quarter looked like it may turn into a rout when the Heat went on a 20-0 second quarter run. However, the Magic closed the third quarter on a 20-2 run and took the lead early in the fourth quarter. With the game tied at 91 and just 44 seconds left, Nelson pulled up and a hit a three-pointer. Wade quickly countered with a three of his own six seconds later. After a bad possession, the Heat let Wade iso on J.J. Redick. Wade pulled up from 22′ and his shot looked good, but bounced out, sending the game to overtime. Orlando went to Howard early in overtime and he scored the first four points, but he couldn’t hit free throws, so Nelson took over, scoring the next four on two layups before J.J. Redick hit a couple of free throws to ice the game.
“I thought our guys fought really hard,” Stan Van Gundy told the media.
The Magic did a pretty good job on LeBron James in the second half and Dwight Howard’s 24 points and 25 rebounds clearly stand out on the box score, but this game belonged to Jameer Nelson. Nelson was efficient, taking just 16 shots to get his 25 points. Nelson scored 20 of those points in the second half .
“He was tremendous tonight,” Van Gundy said. “Best he’s played, maybe all year, certainly in a game where we needed it.”
The Heat were getting torched so badly by Nelson, Head Coach Erik Spoelstra put James on Nelson, but he couldn’t slow him down.
“He really created a lot of their opportunities, not only just making shots but breaking down our pick-and-roll defense, getting into the paint repeatedly, doing it in different ways,” Spoelstra said.
- “For tonight, we’re going to give a [expletive] about the game,” Van Gundy said, clearly tired of the Howard trade talk.
- Orlando’s achilles heel, their inability to take of the ball, almost came back to bite them again – they had 24 turnovers that led to 32 Miami points.
- Orlando, which shot 39.3% from the field in the game, went 6-of-14 (42.9%) in the second half.
- Quentin Richardson gave the Magic some good minutes – he scored nine points, got himself to the free throw line fives times (hitting four) and played pretty good defense on LeBron James, who went just 7-of-20 from the field and finished with 19 points.
- The Heat, who are about as good as anyone at drawing fouls, went to the line just 11 times in the game while the Magic drew 37 free throws (Howard shot nearly half of those free throws but was just 6-of-18 from the stripe).
- Ryan Anderson had another solid game, scoring 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting plus he grabbed 12 rebounds.
- The Magic dominated the boards, grabbing 46 rebounds to Miami’s 36.
- J.J. Redick was excellent – he defended Wade as well as he could probably hope and scored 17 points on just 10 shots.
- The Heat fronted Howard throughout the game, so it was very difficult to get the ball into him. When Brian Serra asked Van Gundy about the way they defended Howard, he said Howard “was rolling pretty well offensively and we just couldn’t get him the ball.”
Next Up: The Magic don’t have time to celebrate this one – they’ll be in San Antonio to play the Spurs Wednesday night.
Final Thought: The Magic’s big win will be overshadowed by the Howard drama.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, ESPN Florida’s Magic Insider (http://ESPNFlorida.com) and is the co-host of the ESPNFlorida.com Insiders Show Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him onTwitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here)
Topics: Chris Bosh, Chris Duhon, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Erik Spoelstra, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu, Ish Smith, J.j. Redick, Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Larry Hughes, LeBron James, Miami Heat, Mike Miller, Norris Cole, Orlando Magic, Otis Smith, Pat Riley, Quentin Richardson, Ryan Anderson, Shane Battier, Stan Van Gundy, Udonis Haslem, Von Wafer