The Miami Heat got another glimpse at how difficult it is every night when you're the defending NBA champion. The Heat needed clutch performances from each of their stars to slip past the injury-depleted Orlando Magic.
LeBron James scored eight of his 36 points in overtime and also finished with 11 assists and eight rebounds to help Miami beat the Magic 112-110 on Monday.
The Heat, beaten decisively by Detroit and Milwaukee before arriving in Orlando, got a decisive dunk from Dwayne Wade with 6.2 seconds left in the extra period to avoid what could have been their first three-game losing streak this season.
"The biggest thing was that we didn't want to lose," Wade said. "We dug in against a team that played very well. They had some guys on the court that half the NBA never heard of, but those guys did an unbelievable job. They pushed us to the limit."
Miami also needed a pair of baskets from Chris Bosh in the final minute of regulation just to get them to overtime. Bosh had 22 points and Wade added 21.
"The one thing I liked is that I saw an absolute competitive desperation in our guys in the fourth quarter and overtime," Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra said. "In a perfect world, I would like to see where we didn't have to get pushed that far, but our guys did not want to lose that game. You saw a competitive spirit that our team is known for."
Orlando rookie coach Jacque Vaughn had plenty of praise for his team despite a sixth straight loss. The Magic got a franchise-record 29 rebounds and a career-high 20 points from Nikola Vucevic, 28 points from Arron Afflalo and 23 points from J.J. Redick. They led by four with 1:07 left in regulation and were down only two in the final minute of overtime, but couldn't execute in the clutch.
"We really showed a lot of resolve tonight, a lot of fight and I hope our fans appreciated that," Vaughn said. "We talk about character and how you will be challenged with a little adversity and how you respond. I'm proud of how we responded."
Orlando, in the midst of a rebuilding program, played without injured point guard Jameer Nelson, his backup, E'Twaun Moore, and starting power forward Glen Davis. The lack of ballhandlers and depth never showed until the final minute of overtime, when the Magic committed three turnovers and couldn't get off a shot to either extend a lead or tie the game.
"We almost beat the Miami Heat without some of our really important players," Vucevic said. "We were right there. If we play hard like we did tonight, we have a chance against anybody in this league."
Miami, by contrast, had only one turnover in the second half and none in overtime. The Heat got plays when they needed them from James, Bosh and Wade.
"This is a winning league," James said. "It's not about how close you came to losing or how close you came to winning. We won. I'm not discrediting what they did; they played a great game. We just made one more play than they did."
James scored on a driving layup with 1:07 left in the extra period to give Miami a 108-106 lead. He missed a shot from the top of the key, giving Orlando a chance to tie, but Shane Battier stole a cross-court pass from Redick and fed Wade for his late slam.
Josh McRoberts cut it to two with two seconds to play, but James sealed it at the line.
The first half was a series of momentum swing by both teams, with Miami breaking off a 10-0 run early and Orlando responding with a 12-0 burst in the second quarter. The Magic finished the half on a 21-8 run to take a 54-48 halftime lead.
The back-and-forth play continued in the second half. Miami scored the first seven points to go ahead 55-54 on an 18-foot jumper by James, but the Magic responded with a 13-2 run, punctuated by a 20-foot jumper from the corner by DeQuan Jones to go back in front 67-57.
The Heat scored the last four points of the third quarter and the first nine of the fourth, eventually taking a 79-77 lead on a vicious slam by James with 9:38 left in regulation. Miami forced three turnovers and three missed shots in the 13-0 run.
Redick stopped the rally with back-to-back 3-pointers, which set up a mad dash for the finish line. A 3-pointer by James gave Miami a 91-89 lead, but the Magic went back in front on a three-point play by Afflalo that made it 94-91 with 2:45 left.
Orlando led 99-95 after Vucevic hit a 15-footer with 1:07 to go, but Bosh tied it with back-to-back baskets. The Heat forward had a chance to win it in regulation, but his runner from eight feet hit the side of the basket, sending the game into overtime.