The Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder matchup from Christmas was a great way to kickoff the countdown of the Top 5 Memorable Moments of the Heat’s 2012-13 season. The next game features the Heat going against an inexperienced and youthful division foe in the Orlando Magic. This matchup on March 6 saw LeBron James do something he rarely does while helping to extend the franchise winning streak to 16 games.
Orlando was as tough against Miami as any other team in the league. They were not afraid of the defending champions as evidenced by their previous meeting where Magic center Nikola Vucevic had the best game of his career, notching 20 points and a career best 29 rebounds. The Magic came up short in overtime losing by a small 112-110 margin. Miami would have to be ready this time around or the Magic could march into South Beach to steal a victory.
It was clear from the outset that the Heat wanted to throw some jabs and try to knock the Magic out early. That was not the case as Orlando was matching basket for basket before Miami started to stretch an early lead to 25-18. An 11-4 run that was finished off by LeBron James and Chris Andersen assisting each other on consecutive baskets held give the Heat momentum.
The second quarter was all Miami, all the time as the basketball continued to hit the bottom of the net. A Norris Cole 3-pointer put the Heat up by 11 points and it was looking like an easy night for the champs. Orlando didn’t get any closer than six points in the second quarter and it was apparent the Heat wanted to pour it on. Before you knew it, James and Dwyane Wade started to take over hitting an array of shots, guiding the team to a 55-40 lead at intermission.
Coming out of the break, no one thought they were in for a treat as the Magic pulled out some tricks to get them back in the game after the Heat’s lead had ballooned to 60-40 just two minutes into the third quarter.
Arron Afflalo and Andrew Nicholson started to find their stroke and the Magic were playing defense as Vucevic was a savior on the glass. The Orlando center hit a basket at the 4:47 mark to cut the deficit to 10 points. The defense was turned up a notch as the Heat could not buy a hoop while on the other hand, the Magic were getting points in bunches. Mo Harkless, Tobias Harris and Vucevic had the last 17 points of third quarter for the Magic cutting the Heat lead down to just three points.
Now, the final quarter had its fireworks especially down the stretch when the 15-game winning streak looked to be in jeopardy. Magic guard Jameer Nelson tied the game at 79 in the early goings of the fourth quarter. Evidently, Miami had lost its first half swagger and moments later watched a 20 point lead flip into a five point deficit.
James pulled the Heat to within 93-92 after making five straight free throws. Chris Bosh tied the game at 93 after splitting a pair at the line. There was nothing to say that Miami couldn’t will itself to a win against a young and injury riddled team.
Then, Nelson struck again after Harris hit one of two at the line to put the Magic ahead 96-93. Bosh hit a pair at the charity stripe to make it a 96-95 Magic lead.
And the stage was set for James and the Miami Heat to win the game and continue their franchise long winning streak or fall to one of the worse teams in the league after losing a 20-point lead.
James has had the game winning shot elude him for much of his career and the last one of importance came against the magic in the 2009 NBA Playoffs. This time the ball was sure to be in his hands with the team’s winning streak on the line.
After an ill-advised timeout was called according to Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra, the Heat had one last chance to swoop in and steal the game. James decided to make his move on the right side and sized up DaQuan Jones before blowing right past him getting to the hoop to rise up for the game winning layup with 3.2 seconds left.
Afflalo’s last second heave was unsuccessful from midcourt as the Heat escaped barely. The Heat’s winning streak made it to 16 consecutive games thanks to a memorable moment from the King.
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