ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic opened the 2018-19 season with a win over the Miami Heat 104-101 in front of a sellout crowd at the Amway Center.
Orlando’s 7-foot rookie Mohammed Bamba made an immediate impact in his first NBA game with 13 points 7 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. Bama was nervous at first but played unfazed basketball.
”I was so nervous going out there, but it was everything that I expected. It was a fun game to play in,” said Bamba ”It’s just a matter of doing that 81 more times.”
Aaron Gordon, who struggled with scoring during the preseason, lead the Magic with 26 points and added 16 rebounds for the Magic, including key 3-point shots to help hold Orlando’s lead during the stretch.
Goran Dragic led Miami with 26 points and Josh Richardson added 21.
Bama made his presence when he was on the floor. His length was felt on both ends of the court with timely taps of contested balls to open Magic players and Bama making players think twice before shooting around him.
Early in the fourth quarter, Bamba swatted away a shot by Richardson, and Terrence Ross got his hands on two more Heat shots during Miami’s scoreless stretch of nearly four minutes. Bamba dunked in two Orlando misses, and Jerian Grant hit a jumper to lift the Magic to a 92-81 lead with 7:50 remaining.
Dragic, Richardson and Ademyou led a furious Heat comeback to bring the score closer in what was looking like another Orlando fourth quarter collapse, which has become an Orlando calling card in recent years.
After the Magic missed three free throws in the final seconds, Miami had a chance to win. But Richardson dribbled out of bounds before Evan Fournier hit two free throws with 1.6 seconds left for the game’s final points in what turned out to be a thriller.
The Magic’s bench (Bamba, Ross, Grant and Jonathon Simmons) contributed 36 points, 18 rebounds and seven blocks.
”Offensively, we were here and there, but the story of the game was the bench,” said Magic coach Steve Clifford. ”When they went in the game they picked up our defense and we played offense off our defense, which is something you have to do earlier in the year.”
Tonight was also the first night of the Dwayne Wade farewell tour. The crowd, which was about 60% cheering for Miami, gave him a standing ovation when he entered the court at 8:22 in the first quarter.
Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said that he would limit Wade to 20-25 minutes, knowing that its a long season and he wants to keep wade effective. Wade wound up playing 26 mongers, and scored 9 points, had 11 rebounds and 2 assists.
Heat players F Justise Winslow (hamstring), G Wayne Ellington (ankle), G Dion Waiters (ankle) and F James Johnson (hernia) did not play, so they did not have their full roster in the mix for this contest.
The Magic had difficulty when Miami double teamed and pressed ball handlers in the fourth quarter as well as making only 7-of-25 3-point shots and missed 12 free throws, so the team obviously had some work to do on the practice floor.
Winning the opener was definitely a positive note heading into the 82 game grind that is the NBA Season.
Next: the Magic face Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets on Friday October 19th at the Amway Center.