For openers, Heat roll past Magic, 96-70

For this home opener unlike any other, the Miami Heat deviated

from the years-old script of having starters run onto the floor

when their name was called.

Instead, in a darkened arena, each of the Heat first-stringers

stood still as a spotlight shined upon them.

The message couldn’t have been less subtle: All eyes are on this

team, and they showed why Friday night.

Dwyane Wade scored 26 points, LeBron James had 15 points and

seven assists and the Heat scored the first 14 points of the second

half to turn a close game into a surprisingly one-sided 96-70

victory over the Orlando Magic.

”This is what we envisioned,” James said.

The same couldn’t have been said in the Magic locker room.

Orlando has owned this series, winning 15 of the past 20 games

against Miami before Friday – before Wade, James and Chris Bosh

teamed up to form an instant title contender.

And the result was nothing short of shocking. The Heat held

Orlando to its lowest point total since Dec. 2, 2005, and the

26-point margin matched Miami’s biggest ever against the Magic. The

30.4 percent shooting effort was Orlando’s worst since Nov. 3, 2003

– a span of 573 regular-season games.

”They came out, they threw an uppercut, and as a team we kind

of went down,” Magic center Dwight Howard said.

Oh, this was a knockout, all right.

”The guys now can’t go back on this,” Heat coach Erik

Spoelstra said. ”They’ve shown me what we’re capable of

defensively and I will hold them to this standard now in terms of

the effort. The effort was great.”

When the Heat acquired James this summer, Magic president of

basketball operations Otis Smith uttered a now-infamous-in-Miami

line: ”I was surprised that he went. I thought he was, I guess,

more of a competitor.”

James was asked about Smith’s words postgame. He tried to keep a

stoic look, and failed.

”We heard everything Orlando had to say about us in the

offseason,” James said. ”It’s not like it’s satisfying. I’m not

relieved, because it’s a long season. But they know we’re here for

the long haul. We know they’re going to be there also, but this is

a different Miami Heat team. There’s only so many words to be said.

At this point, the ball has to be thrown up now.”

It didn’t take long for the trio to provide their first

highlight: Bosh grabbed the ball at one end, passed toward midcourt

to James, who took one dribble and found Wade for an alley-oop dunk

to help Miami take an early 22-13 lead.

”Off to the races,” Bosh said.

They were just getting started.

Howard scored all 19 of his points in the first half for

Orlando, then fouled out midway through the fourth quarter. Reserve

Ryan Anderson scored 12 for the Magic, who got 10 from Jameer

Nelson.

Miami’s starters – with no points from Joel Anthony – outscored

Orlando’s first five 59-37.

”Overall, I thought it was just a terrible offensive

execution,” said Magic forward Rashard Lewis, who was 0 for 9 from

the floor.

The first half was fairly back-and-forth with eight lead changes

and seven ties, neither team taking control. That changed quickly

coming out of intermission.

James hit a 3-pointer to open the second half, Wade connected on

two more 3s within a 51-second span, and suddenly Miami’s lead was

60-45. Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy called timeout, and that didn’t

change anything – James’ jumper about a minute later pushed the

lead to 20.

And that, mind you, was against an Orlando team that cruised to

a 29-point win over Washington on Thursday night. For a team with

no shortage of offensive options, the Magic struggled against the

Heat.

”I thought our passing was horrendous tonight,” Van Gundy

said.

The shooting was worse.

Vince Carter played just 13 minutes, banging his head and hip on

the floor while jostling for a rebound in the second quarter and

finishing with four points. Orlando’s starting forwards – Lewis and

former Heat starter Quentin Richardson – combined for four points

and missed all 14 of their field-goal tries. J.J. Redick left for a

few minutes in the first half after drawing a charge against James

with the right side of his face, which was cut and puffy. Redick

needed seven stitches.

It was over after the third quarter, Miami’s best period in all

three games so far. The Heat have outscored foes 86-41 in that

quarter through the season’s first week. And even though the

outcome was decided, Wade, James and Bosh all played some in the

fourth – not to send a message, but rather to work on continuity,

Spoelstra said.

”It’s a good win,” Spoelstra said, ”but we can’t get carried

away.”