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Heat comeback attempt falls short in season opener vs Magic

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The Heat cut a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to two. They couldn’t get over the hump.

NBA: Miami Heat at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat’s first quarter? It was great — as the Heat scored 37 points in the opening stanza of play and build a lead.

The rest of the game? Not so much.

Despite a frenzied comeback attempt late in the game — complete with a Hassan Whiteside 3-pointer and an audible “Let’s Go Heat!” chant in Orlando — to close a 17-point deficit to two points, the Heat fell in the first game of the season 116-109.

Miami had a great stretch in the fourth quarter, with James Johnson doing a lot of the ball-handling and creating shots for himself and others. The problem? Johnson had foul trouble through the first three quarters. He only managed to play one minute in the second and third quarters before picking up his third and fourth fouls.

The Heat also shot just 8-for-28 from downtown, a key ingredient of their 30-11 success in the second half of the season. Wayne Ellington, who led the Heat in 3-pointers made last year, shot 0-for-4 from downtown. Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters were a combined 2-for-9 from downtown.

The one thing people remember about the Heat’s play? That they played so hard. And in Miami’s opener, that was also sorely lacking. To open the fourth quarter — a quarter the Heat entered down 10 — the Magic got the rebound on a free-throw shot. A couple possessions later, the Heat missed a loose ball off a Magic missed shot that led to an Orlando 3. That 3 early in the fourth period gave the Magic a 17-point lead. A few minutes of intensity couldn’t overcome a lackadaisical game.

The Heat fell behind by as many as 15 points in the third quarter. Goran Dragic’s drives to the basket came up empty, and Miami committed three consecutive turnovers in one tough-to-watch stretch. Two of those turnovers came off bad passes as Dragic cut to the basket from the baseline.

Whiteside stood as a huge positive, and not only for his 3-pointer. The Heat center had 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting from the field and 22 rebounds. Whiteside had grabbed 10 boards by halftime. He even was a perfect 3-for-3 from the foul line. Unfortunately for the Heat, Whiteside didn’t score during the pivotal second and third quarters when the Magic built their leads. He catalyzed Miami’s late comeback with a flurry of dunks, hook shots and yes, that 3.

If Wednesday night is any indication, Bam Adebayo will have a place in the rotation. He played to open the second quarter alongside Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Kelly Olynyk and Wayne Ellington. That lineup suffered a scoring drought until a Winslow 3-pointer more than three minutes into the quarter. Hey, it’s good he can hit an open corner 3.

That lineup didn’t lose Miami’s lead, though. The Magic made a 11-2 run in the second quarter after Erik Spoelstra put Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters and Hassan Whiteside back into the game. Miami hemorrhaged points, and James Johnson battling foul trouble didn’t help. At one point, Aaron Gordon threw the ball off the backboard and dunked it.

The Heat had a particularly freewheeling spirit through the game. Olynyk brought the ball up court for the Heat, as did Winslow.

Of course, this is just the first out of 82. You can’t take much from a one game sample size. But Miami has a lot to work on moving forward.