Heat Check: Miami not dead yet after closing home slate with victory
MIAMI — On fan appreciation night, the Miami Heat gave their faithful one thing to smile about with a 100-93 victory Monday against the Orlando Magic in their final home game of the regular season.
The win, combined with the Brooklyn Nets loss to the Chicago Bulls, keeps Miami’s playoff hopes alive for one more night.
The Heat must still win their final game of the regular season on the road against the Philadelphia 76ers and have the Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics, and the Nets all lose their remaining games. That scenario would set up a three-way tie that would allow the Heat to qualify via tiebreaker.
With the Heat still vying for a playoff spot and the Magic seemingly resigned to another year in the lottery, the home team raced out to an early lead and continued to build on it throughout the first half.
Encountering little resistance at the rim, Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade attacked the paint while Hassan Whiteside dominated on both ends by leading his team with 13 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in the first half.
The lead ballooned to a 45-25 advantage midway through the second quarter as the Heat cruised to a big lead entering the second half. The Heat continued to control the game even as the Magic cut it to 72-57 with five minutes left in the third quarter.
Orlando’s shooting struggles from beyond the arc would prevent them from making a significant run and the Heat were content to trade baskets as time wore on.
Despite everything, Orlando didn’t stop fighting back and had a chance to cut the deficit to single digits with a 11-4 run to start the fourth quarter. Chris Andersen forced an offensive foul from Victor Oladipo at the top of the key and Wade took advantage with three consecutive baskets to push the lead back up to 17 points.
One final push by the Magic near the end of the game got them within six points, but the Heat made just enough plays to outlast their in-state rivals.
Orlando’s bright spots were Oladipo, who had 30 points to lead all scorers, and Tobias Harris contributing 26 points and 12 rebounds on 11-of-15 shooting. Center Nikola Vucevic, who has torched the Heat throughout his career, struggled early and finished with three points.
Whiteside led a balanced Heat attack in which five players finished with double figures, including Luol Deng with 14 points and 10 rebounds and Wade contributing 22 points, four rebounds and five assists.
"We had a lot of great games at home where we played well and the fans were amazing," Deng said. "We also had a lot of games where we didn’t play so well and they stayed positive and lifted us. Sometimes we pulled out the win and sometimes we didn’t. It was great to end the last game at home with a win."
THE TURNING POINT
Orlando had a chance to become the latest team to mount an second-half comeback against Miami with a minute remaining and the score 94-88. A bad pass from Oladipo gave the ball away and Deng knocked down a 3-pointer on the next play to preserve the victory.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER
Whiteside was a one-man wrecking crew as he recorded his 22nd double-double of the season by halftime and finished with 24 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks in nearly 37 minutes.
STAT OF THE GAME
With the team shooting just 3 of 10 on 3-pointers, Miami instead went inside and recorded a season-high 66 points in the paint.
"He’s been putting in a lot of time developing (his game)," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "This is several weeks, but it’s really the last few games now where he’s gaining trust in everybody."
The Heat visit the Philadelphia 76ers in their final game of the regular season Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.