MIAMI (AP) -- The team built to win a championship is slumping as
the postseason looms. And the club holding barely a sliver of
playoff hope couldn't be performing any better.
Jameer Nelson scored 26 points and the Orlando Magic won for the
eighth time in nine games, beating Miami 93-84 on Sunday night and
handing the Heat their first two-game home losing streak of the
The Magic closed within three games of Chicago and Philadelphia
for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.
Dwight Howard had 16 points and Hedo Turkoglu added 14 for
Orlando, which has beaten the East's top two teams in consecutive
outings; the Magic, who still have a mathematical postseason shot,
nipped Detroit on Friday night.
"We're not talking about the playoffs," Magic guard DeShawn
Stevenson said. "We're talking about each game. We go into every
game worried about the team we're playing."
Meanwhile, it seems as if Heat coach Pat Riley goes into every
game these days worried about his club, which has dropped six of
its last 11 games.
Riley blamed himself for the loss, saying he made the wrong
substitutions, called the wrong plays, didn't inspire his team --
and, perhaps most significantly, said he started the wrong lineup,
strongly indicating that changes could be coming for the Heat's
final five regular-season contests.
"It's almost a crossroads for me right now, to find the
competitive warriors and the competitiveness of those guys will
transcend the talent and reputation," Riley said. "I'm going to
try to find the guys who are going to try to play the hardest and
best in support of our two great players."
Miami's loss, combined with New Jersey's win in Milwaukee
earlier Sunday, left the Heat 2½ games ahead of the Nets in the
race to clinch the East's No. 2 seed. The Heat have five games
remaining, the Nets six.
Orlando's 20-point third-quarter lead was sliced to five on
Wade's jumper early in the fourth, but five straight points from
former Miami guard Keyon Dooling squashed that rally and helped the
Magic beat their in-state rival for the second time in 12 meetings.
How tough were things for Miami? The Heat missed three dunks,
two by O'Neal and another when Wade couldn't convert after a steal
early in the third quarter.
"This team came out and beat us," Wade said. "Every time we
made a run, they came back and made a run. We lost this one. ... We
know that we're a couple of shots and a couple of defensive plays
away from being a great team."
Miami led only once -- 2-0 -- while allowing the Magic to shoot 61
percent and score 15 points off turnovers in the opening half. Wade
and O'Neal were a combined 11-for-16 from the field in the half;
their teammates were a combined 6-for-15.
"We didn't come ready to play," forward Udonis Haslem said.
"Give Orlando credit. They played a good game tonight and beat us.
This is one you have to put behind you and move on."
Nelson had 10 of Orlando's final 12 points in the half,
including a 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds remaining for a 56-43 lead.
And after Wade's missed dunk about 90 seconds into the third
quarter, Nelson immediately followed with another 3-pointer for
what was then Orlando's biggest lead, 61-43.
Miami closed the quarter on an 18-7 run -- capped by Michael
Doleac's short bank shot with no time remaining to get the Heat
within 75-66 entering the fourth. But the Magic survived the
"It's all going to be decided in Game 82," Magic coach Brian
Hill said. "Those six, seven and eight spots are going to be
decided on the last day of the year."
Wade became the first player in Heat history with 2,000
points in a season. He now has 2,007. ... Magic G Carlos Arroyo
missed the second half with a strained left hamstring. ... Orlando
had a pair of 8-0 runs in the first quarter. ... Derek Anderson's
3-pointer with 7:45 left in the third was Miami's first one at home
in its last 16 attempts. ... O'Neal's fourth-grade teacher from
Fort Stewart, Ga., Annette Swann, 76, saw him play for the first
time. "She was one of the first people to believe in me," said
O'Neal, who arranged tickets for Swann and her daughter Amy Allyn,
plus hotel accommodations and gifts from the Heat store.