The Miami Herald

Miami Heat exploit porous Orlando Magic defense

Well, that didn't take long.

A day after Heat president Pat Riley "nitpicked'' Dwyane Wade's dip in conditioning and efficiency, the star guard responded with one of his most precise efforts of the season.

In the process, the Heat took another huge step toward emerging from a frustrating funk with Thursday's 104-86 victory against the Orlando Magic at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Shooting a career-low 42.7 percent from the field entering the game and gradually working his legs into midseason form, Wade warned that a stretch of breakthrough games for him could be on the way soon.

It arrived against the Southeast Division-leading Magic. Wade scored a team-high 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting to go with seven assists and no turnovers through three quarters as the Heat led by as many as 29 points. Wade sat out the fourth quarter for the second game in a row as Miami cruised to a blowout.

"I love nights like that," Wade said of being able to watch from the bench as his teammates finish out victories. "The biggest thing is to play with a lot of energy. I just want more consistent play myself as well."

It was only the fifth time this season that Wade made at least half his shots from the field. Thursday's performance couldn't have come at a better time for the Heat (13-11), which cruised to its second consecutive home win after it dropped four in a row in Miami.

At the start of the week, the Heat held team meetings, soul-searching sessions and lengthy film studies to figure out what went wrong after consecutive lopsided losses at home to Dallas and Memphis to open a six-game homestand.

Miami enters the weekend having battled back with victories over Toronto and Orlando.

"The purity and business-like attitude we've had in the last three days has been solid," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It's been a product of our energy, urgency and focus. Sometimes, you have to sequester yourself."

Wade's efficiency reflected that of his team Thursday. Miami shot better than 50 percent, had 24 assists on its 42 field goals and held the Magic (19-7) to its third-lowest score of the season.

Dwight Howard had 17 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Magic, which has seen its dominance in this instate rivalry slip away.

With energy, aggression and focus among the themes driven home in recent practices and lengthy film sessions, the Heat opened Thursday displaying all three against Orlando.

Michael Beasley scored 22 points and had eight rebounds, and Quentin Richardson and Dorell Wright finished with 11 points apiece for the Heat, which also shot 50 percent from three-point range and beat the Magic at its own game.

"If we continue to play with this focus, this energy, we're a pretty tough team to beat," Beasley said. "It feels good. Just to get that confidence back is helpful."

Shooting 58 percent from the field, dominating the boards and spreading the offensive wealth, the Heat sprinted to its highest-scoring first quarter of the season when it raced to a 33-18 lead against the Magic.

Perhaps Quentin Richardson's return to the starting lineup from a lingering hamstring injury provided a spark. The Heat entered with a 5-2 record when Richardson scores in double figures. He had made a pair of threes and had eight points in the quarter to complement a hot start by Wade, who scored 10 on 4-of-7 shooting.

Miami would lead by as many as 18 in the second quarter and carried a 59-44 lead into the halftime break. The offensive efficiency was spread throughout Miami's playing rotation.

The Heat's starters were 16 of 33 from the field, and reserves Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony, Dorell Wright and Mario Chalmers were more accurate at 8 of 11 in the half.

Miami's two turnovers in the first half also tied a season low.

The Heat didn't let up at the start of the third quarter, when Wade's turnaround jumper with six minutes left extended the lead to 77-54.

Billed during TNT's national broadcast as the Sunshine State Showdown, Miami had just recently made the rivalry competitive again.

Fueled by Dwight Howard's arrival as the No. 1 overall pick in 2004, the Magic soon ran off 10 consecutive victories against the Heat. But Miami regained its footing by winning four of six meetings entering Thursday.




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