If you are the Miami Heat and you want to convince the greater population that you are legit -- whether that be as a contender for the NBA championship or the even a favorite to win the O'Brien -- you ought not drop a 24-point lead to a rival like the Orlando Magic and lose the game. That's exactly what Miami did -- the Magic trailed 73-49 in the third quarter, but went on a 40-9 tear to take a 89-82 late in the fourth. Orlando hung on for a 99-96 win.
This has been a trend of sorts; on Sunday, the Heat had led the New York Knicks by as many as 15 points, and by six with three minutes left. But Chauncey Billups led a Knicks tear that ended with a Heat loss. Is there something deep within the Heat that allows this? Is there a fatal flaw that Miami's opponents have figured out and are working to exploit? Are the Heat doomed?
Well, no. A six-point comeback in the closing minutes is nothing terribly special; ask Kings fans. (Wait, that's not helping my case.) A 24-point comeback is, but understand the Magic. Remember the Phoenix Suns of the middle of the 2000s? No lead was safe against them, and no deficit too large. They shot so many three-pointers whether leading or trailing that a 20-point margin was a lot like a 10-point margin against most other teams. Swings of a dozen points within a quarter were common. The Magic are built the same way. Despite being anchored by a steamboat in Dwight Howard, the Orlando offense is predicated on firing threes at incredible rates. When those shots aren't falling, Orlando tends to fall behind by a lot, quickly. When the shots do fall, the Magic race out to huge leads, or erase huge deficits.
Orlando hit 9-14 three-pointers in the second half. That's a veritable barrage, and while the Heat's offense tanked and Erik Spoelstra ought to have some defensive tactics to slow down an assault like that, this was as much a Magic triumph as a Heat failure. It's both, of course. But it could have happened to anyone.
I imagine many will disagree, and will declare that this -- this -- shows the chink in the Heat's armor. No one denies this.