Friday night, the playoff-contending Miami Heat lost to the lottery-bound Orlando Magic 112-109 to start a home-and-home series with their intra-state rival. That loss hurt Miami's chances of securing home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Heat hosted the Magic in a Sunday matinee. The players made sure they wouldn't suffer another disappointing loss in the hurt for the third or fourth seed.
Miami used a decisive third quarter to run away with the 118-96 victory in Miami's last home game of the season. The Heat avoided the mistakes that cost them the game on Friday night, only turning the ball over 12 times and playing better pick-and-roll defense.
The Heat blew the game open at the end of the third period in an amazing stretch. First, Hassan Whiteside slammed home two lob passes within a minute of each other. About 40 seconds later, Whiteside came up with a steal, igniting a fast-break. Joe Johnson made a 3 on the other end of the floor. On the Heat's ensuing possession, Goran Dragic found a cutting Luol Deng. Miami's lead ballooned from 12 to 20 by the end of the quarter.
Unfortunately, Justise Winslow sprained his ankle during that stretch. Winslow did not return to the game, but this is the type of late-season injury that playoff teams would love to avoid. If Miami wants a prolonged playoff run, having a healthy Winslow would help a lot.
On the bright side, Whiteside recorded his 41st double-double of the season with Miami, scoring 18 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field and 8-of-8 shooting from the foul line and grabbing 15 rebounds. Whiteside also started this time, and Amar'e Stoudemire was a "Did Not Play -- Coach's Decision." Whiteside always got the lion's share of the minutes at center, even when he came off the bench. Nikola Vucevic scored 29 points in the Heat's road game against the Magic Friday and had 19 tonight. We'll see if Erik Spoelstra continues to start Whiteside.
Everyone showed up for Miami. Deng scored 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field and dished out five assists. Dragic added 19 on 8-of-12 shooting from the field and dished out six assists. Dwyane Wade had 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field. Because the Heat kept their foot on the gas pedal in the fourth, Wade rested the entire fourth quarter. Gerald Green had 15 points in an encouraging sign after his 30-point outburst against the Sacramento Kings April 1. Josh Richardson added nine points, four assists and his usual tenacious play.
Miami played so well that even Briante Weber, whom the Heat just signed, made his Heat debut in mop-up time. Weber made his only shot attempt of the night on the floater in the lane. Hopefully, Weber will learn a lot the rest of the season and into the playoffs and develop into a rotation-ready player like Tyler Johnson, Richardson or even Udonis Haslem.
The Heat will visit the Detroit Pistons Tuesday night in a game that will matter for both teams.