Rashard Lewis played almost three-and-a-half seasons for the Orlando Magic, and most of his memories are overwhelmingly positive. With his ability to stretch the floor with his 3-point shooting, he helped the franchise reach the 2009 NBA Finals and the 2010 Eastern Conference finals.
On Friday night, shortly after he and the rest of the Miami Heat flew into town, Lewis returned to Winter Park, where he used to live, and ate at his favorite steakhouse. Fond memories flooded over him.
On Saturday night, he reminded Magic fans of those good years. Lewis returned to Amway Center and sparked the Heat to a 110-94 win over his former team. Given a spot start because of an injury to Shane Battier, Lewis scored a season-high 18 points, collected four rebounds and even had a pair of assists.
"It was almost like perfect timing," Lewis said. "You don't want to wish nothing bad on your teammates — to get hurt. But Coach called my name, and I went out and played well. I'm very happy with it."
The Magic aren't.
On a night the Magic wore throwback jerseys from their franchise's early years, they saw Lewis turn back the clock himself.
With Orlando leading 59-58 midway through the third quarter, Lewis scored on a layup.
The Heat never trailed again, and his basket started what became a 15-0 Heat run.
On Miami's next possession, LeBron James threw a pass to Lewis in the left corner, in front of the Magic's bench. Lewis launched a 3-pointer and absorbed a foul by Tobias Harris. The ball sailed through the hoop, and Lewis made the ensuing free throw to complete a four-point play.
"He's one of my good friends," Magic point guard Jameer Nelson said.
"He still can shoot the ball. You never forget how to shoot the ball."
The defending champs have an embarrassment of riches.
Battier sat out because of a sore quadriceps muscle, and the Heat just plugged Lewis into his place.
"It's a luxury as a coach to have guys that at the end of the day can make shots," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "He opens the floor for them, and it was a tough matchup for us. You have to decide if you're going to play small or big, and we tried both tonight."
The Magic (10-23) have lost their last three games.
Now a five-game road trip is looming. The team will fly to Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon.
But the Magic still gave the Heat some problems on Saturday.
In the second quarter, Orlando went on a 16-3 run that featured aggressive drives to the hoop, solid ball movement and energetic defense.
Down 41-40, Victor Oladipo drove to the basket for a right-handed layup. His shot missed, but Harris cut into the lane, grabbed the offensive rebound and scored on a putback layup.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra slapped his hands together in frustration as he watched the sequence end.
Even without injured center Nik Vucevic, even with the Magic shooting under 40 percent from the field at the time, the Magic were outrebounding the Heat by crashing the offensive boards.
James drove to the hoop on Miami's ensuing possession, but Glen Davis blocked the shot. Oladipo collected the loose ball and passed to Nelson, who fired the ball ahead to Davis for a fastbreak layup.
The bucket put Magic ahead 44-41.
The Heat (25-8) recovered.
James finished the game with 15 points, but he also contributed eight rebounds and eight assists.
Miami didn't need many points from him.
Lewis provided the offensive boost.
And, in the process, Lewis helped beat his old team.
"It's always good to come back and play in this building," he said. "Just being in the city kind of brings back memories."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun