It was the second of back-to-back games and the Heat were without the services of Dwyane Wade. The Orlando Magic had not played since Saturday night and Miami has started several games very sluggishly. The ingredients were there for an easy-bake recipe for disaster.
Not this time and not for this version of the Heat.
Miami started off the game a perfect 7 for 7 on all field goal attempts, would relinquish the lead only once and ripped the nets from long-range to rout Orlando, 120 - 92.
The Heat fielded its sixth different starting lineup this season and Chris Bosh picked up two quick fouls on very questionable calls. But James Jones, starting in place of Wade, and Shane Battier each hit a three-pointer as part of an early 16 - 0 run. Seven different Miami players hit from long-range during the game, knocking down an unreal 62.5% (15 of 24) from beyond the arc.
Orlando was unfazed by the early deficit and went on a hot streak of its' own. Arron Afflalo hit four three-pointers and finished the first quarter with 14 points, helping narrow the lead to 5. Jameer Nelson (17 points for the game) shot with confidence, hitting several shots from well behind the three-point line. Behind this long-distance barrage, the Magic actually took a 1-point lead in the second quarter.
But Miami started the second half with a vengeance, combining deadly shooting with constricting defense and outscoring Orlando 36 - 24 in the third quarter. Jones added 14 points (finishing with 17) and helped build a comfortable lead of 17.
The Heat followed a recent trend of keeping the second unit on the floor to close out the game and it did so with a flourish. Ray Allen, Norris Cole and Roger Mason, Jr. all hit from downtown, and Michael Beasley shrugged off a slow start to finish with 14 points.
Orlando wasted an impressive effort by Afflalo, who led all scorers with 30 points including 7 of 9 three-pointers. The Magic simply did not get consistent contributions from the rest of the team. Rookie Victor Oladipo, starting at shooting guard, showed explosive athletic ability and finished with 20 points, although most of those came in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided. Nikola Vucevic, the Magic center that grabbed a franchise-best 29 rebounds against Miami last season, was a non-factor, fouling out with only 6 points and 6 rebounds in 23 minutes.
Miami continues to find new ways to beat opponents. LeBron James finished with 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists but never seemed to completely take over the game in his own inimitable way. It will be interesting to see what the Heat can do on Saturday when they take on the Magic again at the American Airlines Arena and with a well-rested Wade expected to be back in the lineup.