The season series is tied. The Magic controlled the first game, won it handily, the final score not reflective of how well they played. So why does the Heat’s 90-78 win over the Orlando, a 12-point margin, same as the Magic’s in the first game, feel so much more important, so much more reflective of the gap between these two teams?
There is a rivalry between these two teams. A Florida battle between playoff teams. The game is supposed to be a signature win for the Heat, but instead it feels more like just another game for the Heat. Another team, another victim.
The Heat are the best team in the NBA right now. Chicago had the best record for most of the year (they now trail by a half game to Miami), the best defense, maybe the best coach. But Miami is the best team in the league, right now, at this moment. They may not be the best team in May, in June, they may fail as spectacularly as they did last year. But this game was another indication of how good Miami is right now. Everything people were afraid of about this Heat team in July 2010 looks true. Maybe more.
LeBron James guarded Dwight Howard on a handful of possessions. Not a significant number. Just a handful. The Heat’s team defense held Howard to 12 points on 10 shots, with 3 turnovers. Howard finished with 15 rebounds, but never looked plugged in. James, on the other hand was about as plugged in as it gets. 25 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, and 2 turnovers, in 36 minutes. So James scored or assisted on at least 41 points in 36 minutes (probably more with three-point assists). And, you know, 27 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks for Dwyane Wade on the side. Because he’s not bad, either.
Miami wreaked havoc on the Magic defensively as well, as expected. 37 percent from the field for Orlando. 14 turnovers. A world of hurt. Was Howard disinterested, or were the Magic not forcing the issue to get him the ball enough? These questions are not answerable. The results are the same.
The Magic are a good team. The Heat are better. That’s the lesson of Sunday’s game, regardless of what the season series record says.