Heat lead series 1-0, but Magic are out to get even

Everything was great for the Miami Heat until they moved onto the basketball portion of the program.

Now the worst thing imaginable is happening.

"We're not having fun at all," sayeth LeBron James.

Judging from LeBron's long face, there's not much difference in Miami at the moment than what he dealt with in Cleveland, aside from the wind chill.

Can it be? No fun on South Beach for the Big Three? No rock-star following anymore — by their home fans? No NBA historians tracking the Heat's season any longer?

And, hey, wait a minute. Is that Pat Riley warming up in the coaching bullpen?

Leave it to the actual basketball games, of all things, to get in the way of the Heat's good times.

No one this side of Jeff Van Gundy thought it would be so ridiculously easy that the 72-10 Chicago Bulls would need to hold séances and watch parties.

But it's almost as if it never dawned on the Heat and their admirers that the NBA would treat them so harshly, subjecting them to poor play and injuries … like everyone else endures.

"This game, obviously, was a little of a surprise to me,'' coach Erik Spoelstra said after the Heat were dominated at home by Indiana on Monday night.

Yes, the Pacers. A few days before that, it was the Memphis Grizzlies who claimed a Miami pelt.

Surprise, ahem, is in the voice of the Heat these days.

Now that their force field of arrogance has been shattered, the Heat wobble into Amway Center at a ho-hum 8-6, misfiring on offense and missing some spare parts ( Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller).

All their woes place a ton of pressure on the 9-4 Magic tonight for Orlando-Miami II.

What do you make of the Magic if they can't beat the reeling, luke-warm Heat and square the series?

"What happened to us in Miami is in the back of our heads," point guard Jameer Nelson said after Monday's loss in San Antonio. "And it should be. We take it as a challenge."

The Magic said that the Spurs game was a measuring stick. If that was a barometer, isn't the Miami rematch, especially after Orlando was embarrassed Oct. 29 in South Florida?

Absolutely. If the Heat aren't vulnerable now, then when?

At least against the Spurs, the Magic played well until the final minutes when they kicked the ball around. They could leave Texas feeling upbeat.

It's no wonder Nelson and teammates have nightmares of their 96-70 loss to the Heat, visions of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh shutting them down in mismatches.

They left Miami's building feeling deflated, not only wondering if all the hype about this South Florida steamroller was warranted but whether they'd stand a chance at playoff time.

Other teams have poked holes in the Heat hysteria since then. The Magic need to join them, particularly since they are playing at home.

Magic-Heat II is the biggest game yet at new, cavernous Amway Center. I haven't been overwhelmed by the home-court atmosphere. Time to break it in proper.

This will be the first test to see if the crowd can whip the place into a playoff-type frenzy, Thanksgiving eve or not. I'm thinking goose bumps — not turkey.

Some Heat fans already have checked out until the postseason, arriving late if they come at all. Miami always has been a big-event town, but no-shows for the Big Three? The Heat even produced a cheesy video on the team's website that begs fans to attend or "FAN UP!"

Apathy — another surprise in Heat nation.

Orlando is not as good as Miami when it is whole and cohesive. But the Magic have no excuses tonight not to have a loud voice in the rivalry against the Heat, given the state they're in.

Read Brian Schmitz's Magic Insider and his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/Magic blog and e-mail him at bschmitz@orlandosentinel.com. Subscribe to our Magic newsletter at OrlandoSentinel.com/join us. And listen to Brian every Wednesday at 10 a.m. on ESPN 1080.
 

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