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Heat again struggle vs Magic in costly 110-99 loss

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In a blow to their playoff chances, the Heat struggled from the start.

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

The Miami Heat appeared to be hungry and motivated to avenge two consecutive losses to the Orlando Magic but instead it was their in-state rivals that controlled the game and handed them a 110-99 loss.

Orlando outplayed Miami in every facet of the game and once again had no trouble scoring against them despite the face that they average the second-lowest points in the NBA. As bad as the Magic have been against the rest of the league, they nonetheless take the season series 3-1 and hand the Heat a big blow to their playoff chances.

Orlando scored 20 fast break points and outscored Miami 64-36 in the paint, relentlessly pushing the ball up court for easy buckets. Though they kept within striking distance in the first half, Nikola Vucevic was unsurprisingly on his way to having another monster game against the Heat and Aaron Gordon scored 17 points by halftime. Evan Fournier only had 11 points for the night but led the charge early in the third quarter to increase their lead and Elfrid Payton had a strong all-around game with 12 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

The Heat came within striking distance with a 7-0 run to end the third quarter but by playing catch-up basketball throughout the night, the margin of error was very thin and the Magic kept knocking down timely baskets to keep their opponent at bay. Miami had one last chance when they cut the deficit to just six points in crunch time, but once again Orlando responded with a 7-0 run of their own to ice the game.

James Johnson led the team with 19 points but no other player scored more than 15 points for the game. Wayne Ellington had a nice game with 14 points and Hassan Whiteside fought through illness to come through with 15 points and 18 rebounds. Dion Waiters struggled mightily with 1-11 FG shooting, including 0-5 from long range to finish with just 3 points. Goran Dragic had a quiet night, especially in the second half. It just wasn’t enough collectively to overcome an energetic Magic team that did what the Heat was doing to opponents during their win streak.

Now 1.5 games behind the Detroit Pistons for the final playoff spot, Miami must play against the Cleveland Cavaliers the following night at home and then in Cleveland on Monday. Important games against the Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors also loom large next week, but they can’t replicate their largely lethargic energy that allowed the Magic to outrun them in several occasions.