Magic 99, Heat 96

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 4, 2011

Associated Press
MIAMI ó This time, the Orlando Magic started their comeback in plenty of time to beat the Miami Heat.
Down by 24 in the third quarter, the Magic went on an unbelievable 40-9 run over the next 15 minutes and shocked the Heat 99-96 on Thursday night ó Orlandoís biggest comeback win of the season, by far.
Jason Richardson scored 24 points for Orlando, 11 of them to kickstart the epic burst. Jameer Nelson scored 12 of his 16 in the second half and Dwight Howard finished with 14 points and 18 rebounds for the Magic, who trailed 73-49 after a dunk by LeBron James with 8:57 remaining in the third quarter.
They outscored Miami 50-23 the rest of the way.
ěWell, that defies explanation,î Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said.
Orlando nearly rallied from a 23-point deficit in the final 71/2 minutes when the teams last met early last month, missing a potential game-tying shot in the final seconds that night on its home floor.
So on Thursday, the Magic started rallying much sooner. Miami missed 17 of 22 shots from the field ó and an alarming 7 of 8 from the line ó during Orlandoís run, during which Richardson scored 17 points and made all five of his tries from 3-point range.
Ryan Anderson scored 15 and Gilbert Arenas added 11.
, including a pair of big 3-pointers in the fourth.
James scored 29 and Dwyane Wade had 28 for Miami, which trailed 97-96 with 9.6 seconds left. J.J. Redick pushed the lead to three with a pair of free throws, and Chris Bosh ó who was not the primary option on the play ó and James missed 3-point attempts in the final seconds.
Mike Miller made a 70-footer for Miami moments after the halftime buzzer, something that looked inconsequential when the Heat were leading by 18 at the time.
The final margin? Three points.
And given how the first half went, the loss was nothing short of stunning.
ěWe need to keep on pushing through,î Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ěThereís no other way to say it. … The tide turned.î
The game was significant in the standings.
Miami is now two games behind Boston ó three in the loss column ó for the best record in the Eastern Conference. And Orlando, which has very quietly won four straight, is now just 31/2 games behind Miami in the Southeast Division.
Orlando closed the third quarter on a 22-7 run, pulling to a very manageable 80-71 going into the fourth. The Magic made four 3-pointers in the final 8:40 of the period, three of those by Richardson.
He and the Magic were just getting started, ripping off an 18-2 burst to open the fourth.
In all, over a 15-minute stretch, the Magic made twice as many 3-pointers (8) than the Heat had field goals of any sort (4). And the Heat, who made their first 17 foul shots of the night, then couldnít get anything to go down.
James made his first 11 shots when the teams last met in Orlando a month ago, so the Magic were quite possibly relieved when his first attempt Thursday bounced harmlessly away.
Ah, a mere temporary blip for the two-time MVP.
James and Wade could have played 2-on-5 in the first half, and it might not have mattered. The score after 24 minutes: Miamiís two biggest stars 47, Magic 45. James wound up making nine straight shots after that first miss ó his streak stretched all the way to the midpoint of the third quarter ó and Wade was 10 for 12 from the field by halftime, as the Heat took a 63-45 edge into the locker room.
And it could have been worse. Miamiís lead was 22 before Anderson hit a pair of 3-pointers late in the half, and then Miller swished his desperation shot that didnít count.
The lead reached 73-49 in the third, and the Magic looked anything but interested.
Appearances couldnít have been more deceiving.
As has been the case so many times with Miami this season, things took a quick ó and in this case, downright stunning ó turn.
ěI think our guys are very anxious right now and they want it so bad,î Spoelstra said. ěThis will eventually help us. None of us want to talk about it right now, but we will eventually get over this hump.î
In the last Heat home game, they wasted a 15-point lead before losing to the New York Knicks. At Orlando a month ago, Miami was up by 23 with 7:40 left before surviving a white-knuckle finish. A 23-point lead in Indiana was all but squandered a couple weeks ago, and there was the stunning 22-point collapse in a home loss to Utah in November.
This might have been the worst of all.
Notes: The teams split the season series, each going 1-1 at home. … James was charged with a turnover midway through the third, but the play hurt Bosh more. He inadvertently walked into Jamesí passing lane and took a ball off the face, the pass rolling out of bounds toward the Orlando bench. … Orlandoís biggest comeback this season was a 16-point deficit before beating Dallas.
The Associated Press
03/03/11 23:14