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Heat suffer worst loss of the season to Magic 99-96

A 24 point lead in the third quarter. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James unstoppable in the first half with a combined 47 points on 18-21 shooting that alone surpassed the entire Magic team with 45 points. Mike Bibby was making his Heat debut and was making himself useful. It was smooth sailing ahead. Heck, maybe the Big 3 could rest up in the fourth quarter in anticipation of a true test in San Antonio on a back to back. We know what happened next. Put aside the statistics and think about if this team has any heart in them. Any fight. Who is the Alonzo on this team? Udonis Haslem may be able to help if and when he returns after being away from the court for an extended period of time. But he can't do it all by himself anyway. So who is going to step up on this team when the going gets tough? It's been just fine when the Heat win big against lesser teams but it's been the rare game this season where they put away an elite team early and keep them down (the first Magic game, Lakers on Christmas). Even more troubling (and as I've detailed this earlier this week) the Heat simply can't get it done in crunch time. But this game was made even worse by the fact that a big lead was blown as well. The same scenario happened the last time these two faced off exactly a month ago but the Heat got lucky when the Magic ran out of time and couldn't hit their last shots to finish off the comeback. With a loss this epic everyone is to blame. LeBron and Wade didn't step up when the team needed them the most. Bosh was smothered by the Magic frontcourt whenever he tried to get aggressive. None of the Big 3 attacked the rim in the second half and settled for jumpers. The rest of the team contributed little to the cause. Spoelstra and his coaching staff were once again out-foxed with no answer to Stan Van Gundy's defensive adjustments as well as being guilty of ineffective play-calling in late game situations (which is something that isn't new in the entire Spoelstra regime). So what now? A Friday night game in San Antonio against the powerhouse Spurs. Then more questions about this team as the schedule calls for some tough competition for the next several games. Yes, it's just one game out of 82. As the 2006 championship Heat team proved, it's about which team comes together in the postseason and gets hot. A team doesn't get a trophy for playing well in the regular season, an MVP does. I get that. After all, they have managed to bounce back during previous rough stretches earlier this season. Besides, all the other elite teams have endured embarrassing losses this season. All of them. But the issues this team experience will rise up again in the playoffs because A) they face will play elite teams - the very teams they have trouble with, and B) postseason games tend to have close margins thereby necessitating players to be clutch and to lead their team to victory. How can three All-Stars capable of so much on the floor not be able to do that this season? As Heat fans who have seen Wade shine all these years in Miami with plenty of gutsy play in tight games and game winners, the drastic change is noticeable. Bosh is an All-Star, an Olympian, the franchise leader of everything in Toronto. LeBron is the current 2-time MVP. No more excuses, there's no more time to work on the process of figuring things out. It starts now and the Spurs represent a new test. On to the next one...