Of course it was going to be one of those games.
You know the type of Miami Heat games I’m talking about. The entire first half flies by, the Heat are losing and you question why you shelled out hundreds of dollars for tickets or used up a Saturday night inside to watch it transpire.
Then there’s eight minutes of effort in the second half, another 16 ten minutes of complacency, and then a final four minutes of frantic, adrenaline-fueled, edge-of-your-seat basketball that could end up in either team’s win column.
Saturday night against the Orlando Magic for the second time this week, it was the Heat who came up with the victory, a 101-99 victory that came down to the final two possessions.
Naturally, it was LeBron James hitting the eventual game-winner, a pull-up 20-footer jumper over Arron Afflalo as the shot clock buzzer expired and the game clock hit 15 seconds.
Afflalo was give the first Magic opportunity to tie it up, but was stifled by excellent defense by Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh that forced a weak layup attempt. However, the offensive board was taken by Victor Oladipo, who missed the rushed 10-foot baseline jumper, bouncing off the rim twice, before falling into the hands of LeBron James who ran out the clock to preserve the victory.
James finished with 22 points on 13 shots, made three of his six three-point attempts, grabbed nine rebounds, had seven dimes and committed three robberies on his way to another well-rounded game.
He didn’t look capable of putting up such numbers tonight after a three-point first-half where he only attempted three shots. In fact, the Heat didn’t look capable of pulling off a victory judging by how sluggish their perimeter defense was.
Miami allowed Orlando to shoot 9-of-13 in the first half due in part to the Magic getting open off of slow rotations and a lack of effort being put forth in fighting through screens. The Heat allowed the Magic to score 35 points in the second quarter, while failing to make a single three-pointer in the first half.
They only ended up shooting 24 percent as a team. LeBron was responsible for three of the six makes.
But the story tonight, from an individual standpoint at least, focused on Dwyane Wade, who returned from two-game absence to finish with 27 points, including a pair of vintage slams, on 16 shots, four rebounds and four assists in 34 minutes.
Not bad when you consider he opened up 1-of-6 from the field. Wade and James both began to make their presence felt in the third quarter, each scoring nine points, and enabling a 32-22 third quarter advantage to cut the Magic lead to six going into the final frame.
Orlando led by as much as six with 8:25 left, but would see the Heat take the lead with 3:47 left in the fourth off a Chris Bosh jumper, their first lead since it was 4-3 early in the first.
A pair of Afflalo free throws that would allow Orlando to take back the lead was met by a 27-foot three-pointer by LeBron to give the Heat their biggest lead of the night at two.
A pair of free throws from both LeBron and Dwyane plus an Afflalo layup eventually led to Wade leaving the door open when he missed one of his two free throws with 58 seconds remaining. Naturally, Glen Davis, who finished with 20 points on 13 shots in his first game back from injury, made a layup and a foul to tie it up with 37 seconds left.
That would inevitably lead to the LeBron jumper that would represent the final score of the game, as well as the missed shots by Afflalo and Oladipo to end it.
The Heat were also supported by Chris Bosh’s 18, including two clutch jumpers in the final five minutes, and Michael Beasley’s nine points on 4-of-4 shooting, although he didn’t play a minute in the second half.
Miami’s supporting cast wasn’t as helpful as it had been in the previous three games. The same shots that they were making against Orlando on Tuesday, a night where they shot 15-of-26 from three, just weren’t falling and weren’t as easy to come by, leading to the poor shooting night.
Norris Cole, Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers, Rashard Lewis and Shane Battier combined to shoot 3-of-18 from three.
Nobody said winning had to be pretty, and that certainly wasn’t the case Saturday night as Miami extended their winning streak to six games and pushed their record to 10-3.