Magic come up big down stretch to stun Heat
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) The Orlando Magic sure are making it tough on teams in the playoff hunt or are trying to improve their postseason standing.
In a game that produced a playoff atmosphere, the Magic matched shots with Miami throughout most of the second half in a 112-109 victory Friday night.
The loss was damaging for the Heat, who fell a game behind the Boston Celtics for the coveted fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
For the Magic, it was their third victory over a team in the playoff mix in the last two weeks and fourth win at home in their last five games.
''We're not giving up. That's for sure,'' Magic post Jason Smith said. ''We're not folding this season. We're continuing to play hard, play hard every night, and really go out and finish this season with a bang.''
That was certainly apparent Friday night when the Magic shut down Miami's rally with a couple of big plays in the waning moments.
After Joe Johnson's 3-pointer in the corner tied it at 109 with 30 seconds remaining, Magic center Nikola Vucevic came up with the biggest basket of the night on a dunk with 20 seconds remaining for a one-point lead. Then reserve Devyn Marble came up with another critical play when he stole Luol Deng's inbounds pass to Johnson with 3.4 seconds left.
''We definitely showed some heart,'' said forward Evan Fournier, who finished with 28 points. ''Devyn Marble did not play for the whole game, coming off the bench being cold, and driving for that ball for the game meant everything to us.''
It also may have meant a lot to the Heat but not in a good way.
The loss makes it more challenging for Miami (46-33) to finish in the top four in the Eastern Conference standings with three games remaining in the regular season. The Heat will host Orlando on Sunday and then wrap up the season on the road against Detroit and Boston - both playoff-bound teams. Miami and Boston entered Friday night tied for fourth place in the standings but the Celtics took the one-game lead after defeating Milwaukee on Friday.
While disappointed in the loss, the Heat didn't seem concerned the loss could mean they miss out on home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
''At this time of the year, you're not concerned about a loss here and there This team keeps fighting,'' said Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who led his team with 17 points. ''Losing is part of basketball. As long as you go out and compete, and I thought we did that. I thought they just found a way to win, however they found it, and we didn't.''
The Magic (34-45) received an outstanding performance from Vucevic, who returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench the previous four games. He led all scorers with 29 points.
But Fournier was the spark throughout the night, driving the ball and playing the aggressor. He was 7 of 12 from the field.
''There are only four more games but every time I step on the court, I try to play as hard as I can,'' said Fournier, who at one point scored nine straight points in the first half to give the Magic a 36-35 lead. ''It was a good atmosphere tonight, a good crowd, and it got me going. It's just another game where you have to give everything.''
Heat: A critical turning point came late in the fourth quarter when center Hassan Whiteside was in the face by Vucevic while driving to the basket. No foul was called which upset Whiteside. He walked to other end of the floor after Elfrid Payton scored on a continuation, jawing at the referees and was hit with a technical with 3:08 remaining. The Magic held only a 98-97 lead prior to the hit, but after Payton's three-point play and Fournier's conversion of the technical shot, the Magic grabbed a five-point lead.
Magic: Forward Aaron Gordon did not start because of a concussion suffered Wednesday night in a loss to Detroit. His season also could be done because he now has to follow the NBA protocol with four games remaining in the regular season. Ersan Illyasova took his place in the starting lineup...Victor Oladipo left the game in the second half with a concussion and needing stitches over his left eye after colliding with Whiteside.
Heat: Host Magic on Sunday.
Magic: At Heat on Sunday.