Denton: Familiar Face Lights It Up vs. Magic
By John Denton
Jan. 4, 2014
ORLANDO – Several hours before Saturday’s tipoff, Rashard Lewis leaned back in an Amway Center chair and talked of his days in Orlando, times that he still considers the best of his NBA career.
He spoke of his teamwork with Hedo Turkoglu, his inside-outside partnership with Dwight Howard and his undying friendship with Magic lifer Jameer Nelson. He talked of 3-point records set, runs to the 2009 NBA Finals and giddy, feel-good times in Magic pinstripes.
It was similar to a conversation that Lewis had on Friday night when he hopped in a cab in Orlando and talked with a taxi driver who was a die-hard Magic fan. The cabbie told Lewis just how much he loved living and dying with those Magic teams from 2008-10, something that brought a big smile to Lewis’ face.
All the talk of Lewis’ heyday in Orlando must have inspired him considering that he poured in a season-high 18 points and keyed a big second-half run for Miami in a 110-94 defeat of the Magic at the Amway Center.
``It was almost like perfect timing (to start in Orlando). You don’t wish anything bad on your teammates to get hurt, but coach called my name to start tonight and I came out and played well,’’ said Lewis, who started in place of the injured Shane Battier. ``I’m very happy about it, especially in front of these (Magic) fans. It means a lot to me. These fans showed a lot of support and it was a lot of fun for me.’’
Lewis, who played in Orlando from 2007-11 and became the first power forward in NBA history to lead the NBA in 3-pointers made in 2008, looked like he was back at home on Saturday night. He hit six of 11 shots and three of six 3-point shots. He topped his previous season high of 11 points by the midpoint of the second quarter.
``He is one of my good friends and he still can shoot the ball. You never forget how to shoot the ball,’’ said Nelson, who shot the ball well himself with 21 points and five 3-pointers. ``Give those (Miami) guys over there credit for continuing their game plan. When we made a run, they made adjustments.’’
Orlando (10-23) lost a third straight game. The Magic played inspired basketball in the first half and actually led 57-54 minutes into the third period before Miami (25-8) swung the game with a 19-2 spurt.
``I tried to use all of my timeouts,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``That’s obviously a quality (Miami) team, a championship-caliber team. We need everybody healthy and everything clicking right for us. I thought our guys were courageous in the first half for the way they played. I was pleased with our effort. But that’s an efficient (Heat) ball club.’’
Orlando was once again without starting center Nikola Vucevic, who missed his second straight game with a sprained left ankle. Vucevic rolled his ankle on Tuesday against Golden State and originally thought the injury wasn’t a serious one. Vucevic worked out prior to games on Thursday and Saturday, but was unable to play in either game.
Nelson, who is only the second player in franchise history to play 10 seasons in a Magic uniform, also handed out six assists. Nelson kept Orlando in it early on and made seven of 11 shots and five of eight 3-pointers.
Arron Afflalo had 16 points, but he missed all five of his 3-point shots. Tobias Harris chipped in 17 points, while Victor Oladipo added 16 points and Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis scored 14 points.
``It’s getting back to that point again where we just want to win,’’ Afflalo said. ``Regardless of any and everything, we just want a win. The taste of winning – it gets annoying a little bit when you keep leaving these games with losses. I don’t care if it’s a late-game loss or a blowout, I’m just tired of moving on to the next game with losses. You have to because it’s a long season, but we just want to win.’’
LeBron James made just five of 13 shots, but he still finished with a productive 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh each chipped in 20 points. James was most proud of how Lewis responded on Saturday night when pressed into starting duty.
``Anytime that you are playing against your former team, you want to perform well, especially in their building,’’ James said. ``(Lewis) gave us 18 big points, three steals and that big four-point play.’’
Miami won its 22nd straight game against a foe from the Southeast Division. That is one win shy of equaling the NBA record for most consecutive wins against a division rival. Boston won 23 straight division games in 1961.
The Magic leaves today for a five-game road trip that will cover all or part of 10 nights. Orlando will play the Los Angeles Clippers (Monday), Portland (Wednesday), Sacramento (Friday), Denver (Saturday) and Dallas (Monday) during the trip.
Much to the delight of many life-long Magic fans, Orlando wore black, pinstriped uniforms modeled after the ones the franchise wore in its first few years in the NBA. The team will wear the Hardwood Classics uniforms several more times and next on Jan. 17 against Charlotte.
Said Oladipo: ``I think (the throwback uniforms) are amazing and I think we should wear them more often. There’s no question, those are at the top of the list of feathery.’’
The Magic jumped to a seemingly promising 57-54 lead early in the third quarter before Miami ignited a run that totally turned the game around. Miami used a 19-2 run – with six of the points coming from Lewis on four-point play and two free throws – to surge to a 73-59 lead.
From there, Orlando had trouble defending without fouling, putting the Heat on the free throw line 14 times with 12 makes in the third quarter alone. That allowed Miami to take a 90-76 lead into the fourth quarter even though James had made just three field goals.
Despite a couple of shaky moments early on, Orlando was able to stay in the game with the Heat in the first half by playing tough defense and pushing the ball offensively. Orlando was within 48-46 of Miami at intermission by holding a 15-4 lead in fastbreak points. And even without Vucevic, Orlando had an 8-0 edge in second-chance points in the first two quarters.
Nelson, who has a long history of playing well against the Heat because of a draft night slight 10 years ago, carried the Magic offense in the early going with 11 points, three 3-pointers and three assists.
Lewis got the start in place of Battier and hurt his former team with a fast start in the first quarter. He made four of his first five shots and nearly had his season high of 11 points with a surprising 10 points and an assist in the first quarter. Lewis and Nelson still remain in contact, and like the Orlando taxi driver who chatted up Lewis a day before, the two often reminisce about the good ol’ days in Orlando when the Magic were championship contenders.
``Jameer and I still keep in contact with each other,’’ Lewis said. ``Even during the game we were kind of joking around a little bit. When he made that 3-pointer over me he was talking a little noise. Jameer is a real close friend of mine off the court.’’