No celebration for Heat in 104-99 loss to Magic

Ira Winderman
Contact ReporterSouth Florida Sun Sentinel

There was a perfect moment.

And a perfectly awful outcome.

On the night the Miami Heat retired Chris Bosh's No. 1 with a heartfelt halftime ceremony, the result ultimately was devastating, the Heat blowing an early 17-point lead and falling 104-99 Tuesday night to the Orlando Magic at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The loss dropped the Heat out of the eighth and final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference by a half-game, at No. 9 now just a single game ahead of the No. 10 Charlotte Hornets.

By winning the season series 3-1, the Magic now have the playoff tiebreaker over the Heat.

As do the Hornets.

As do the Detroit Pistons.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra went in appreciating the significance of the moment.

"We have to really impose our will," he said. "You've got two really well-prepared teams that are ready for this matchup. Of the teams that are fighting for these playoff spots, everybody's playing well, everybody's playing desperate. So we will have to bring a great urgency for 48 minutes."

The urgency was there, just not as sustained productivity, which particularly has been an issue at home this season, the Heat now assured of closing with a losing home record.

Dion Waiters led the Heat with 26 points, with Dwyane Wade adding 22 and Josh Richardson 17.

"They just played better, had more plays, made less mistakes," Spoelstra said. "They earned this tonight."

Center Nikola Vucevic led the Magic with 24 points and 16 rebounds.

And so the hard was has become the Heat way.

"We just need to lock our doors tomorrow, roll up our sleeves, get to work," Spoelstra said.

Wade attempted to will the Heat back into the game, including a four-point play with 9:21 to play that drew the Heat within 82-80 after they had fallen behind by eight.

But Orlando, behind the play of Vucevic, then pushed back to a six-point lead.

The Heat led 32-18 at the end of a dominant first quarter, pushed their lead to 17 in the second quarter, with the Magic able to pull within 51-42 at the intermission.

Orlando then continued to seize the momentum, closing within 57-55 with 7:29 to play in the third quarter on an Evan Fournier 3-pointer and then moving to a 63-62 lead on a Jonathan Isaac 3-pointer with 5:11 to play in the third.

The Magic opened 10 of 15 from the field and 6 of 9 on 3-pointers in the third period, closing the third ahead 76-70, with 11 assists on their 12 baskets in the period.

"The start of the third quarter, they just got back into the game so quickly," Spoelstra said.

Five degrees of Heat from Tuesday's game:

1. Wade happens: Wade eclipsed 23,000 career points with his fourth-quarter four-point play, again needed to rescue the Heat.

He stood at 10 points through three quarters before stepping up.

The problem was that the Heat offense basically devolved into Wade or bust, and even by adding seven assists and six rebounds, it wasn't enough.

So now, it looks like the end of Wade's final regular season will come amid playoff-race desperation.

"I think we all know that it is going to come down to the end," he said. "That is not the way I wanted it to be. I would like the last game to not be that way so I can shoot all my shots. It is what it is.

"This team has done that the last couple of years. We went down to the very end a few times. We are in the fight. We have a chance. We lost this one, but we have eight games and if we continue to play the way we have been playing we will be fine."

2. Bosh's time: The Heat went well over the allotted 22 minutes for Bosh's jersey retirement at halftime, with the clock frozen at 5:30 to allow both teams ample warmup time for the second half.

The second quarter ended at 8:35, with the third quarter starting at 9:11.

Bosh's best line? It came when he noted that his No. 1 went to the rafters ahead of Wade's No. 3.

"I had to beat you at something," Bosh said.

He also noted of the 2003 NBA draft and where Heat President Pat Riley selected, "Unfortunately for him he had the fifth pick, and I went at four, so he had to settle for this kid named D-Wade."

3. J-Rich cashes in, early (only): Richardson entered 21 of 71 from the field over the previous five games.

He then shot 4 for 4 from the field, including 3 of 3 on 3-pointers, in the opening period, his 11 points helping the Heat to a 32-18 edge going into the second quarter.

The problem was there was precious little else.

"I will take a look. I like the looks that he has gotten," Spoelstra said. "Overall I don’t think we got many great looks in the fourth quarter, but I will take a look.”

4. Waiters' way: After scoring 18 and then 19 points in the Heat's previous two victories, Waiters this time scored 12 in the first half, when there was little offense outside of what Richardson offered.

Waiters also hit shots late, but in a case of too little, too late, pulled at times Tuesday because of defensive struggles.

"This is stuff that helps you build character," Waiters said. "You stick with it and stay confident and trust everyone in the locker room. Things like this happen. They can either make you or break you."

5. Whiteside back: After his second five-minute stint of the just-completed four-game trip on Saturday night in Washington, Hassan Whiteside this time was active and involved, surpassing that minutes today in his first stint, a 10-minute run that included eight points, with Spoelstra keeping him in after he picked up two early fouls.

When Vucevic began to heat up, however, that when Spoelstra opted for the defense of Bam Adebayo against the All-Star center.

Whiteside ultimately played 14:56, with starting center Bam Adebayo playing 30:21.

iwinderman@sunsentinel.com. Follow him at twitter.com/iraheatbeat or facebook.com/ira.winderman

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