Meltdown like these can break you. The Miami Heat were up by 24 points. Dwyane Wade (28 points) and LeBron James (29 points) did whatever they wanted on the court. After losses to the Bulls and Knicks during the past week, this was just what the doctor ordered. But then Dwight Howard (14 points, 18 rebounds, 5 blocks) woke up, defensively. He swatted the balls like flies, locked down the paint and Orlando started hitting those threes. They made nine in the second half, as the Heat’s focus on Dwight Howard finally paid off for Orlando.
It reminded me of the 2009 playoffs series between the Cavs and the Magic. LeBron would lead Cleveland to a promising lead early on and then face the same Magic comeback. It was supposed to be different this time. He has Wade to share the load with him, but that didn’t happen, especially in the closing minutes and final second. LeBron and Bosh missed attempts to tie the game.
Miami are now 14-16 against teams over .500 this season and 5-12 in close ones. Yeah, it’s the regular season, but the complete breakdown, inability to close games against good teams and something looking like LeBron and four more when the game is on the line does not bode well for the Heat’s playoff chances. Everything good about this team seems to disappear lately when the game is on the line.
The Magic? They struggled so badly during the first half, as Wade and James combined for 47 points, outscoring the Magic by two. Dwight Howard couldn’t get any good looks with the Heat “swarming” him as they like to call it. He finished with 14 points, playing 45 minutes. The Heat’s kept the focus on him in the second half too, but Jason Richardson (5-5 from three in the second half) start making shots, along with the other guys. The comeback was the second largest in franchise history (25 points against the Cavs in 1989).
The Heat had an amazing run around two months ago, now it’s another rough spot. The Bibby signing will pay off. He only scored 3 points last night, but he’s got a lot more to give the Heat. But for them as a team, things have got to change. The team needs to keep playing after big leads. The Heat need to step it up in crunch time. There’s a beaten look to them lately in tight games. Not enough passion, aggressiveness. April is getting close. Someone has to tell Chris Bosh he’s needed too.
Last words about Orlando – They can beat the big teams when Howard raises his intensity and defensive levels to heights no big man can match in the league. He can’t do it in a seven game series, playing 45 minutes every night like on Thursday. The Magic are good and can beat anyone. But the team doesn’t have enough besides Dwight Howard to win it all.