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Heat Vs Magic Tickets
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Stan Van Gundy knows the perception exists that the Miami Heat are "tanking" the rest of the season, solely to ensure they have the best chance of winning the NBA lottery.

Before the game, Van Gundy said he doesn't believe that to be true.

And as if to prove the point, Wade's team pushed his Orlando Magic to the limit Friday night.

Jameer Nelson scored 21 points, Dwight Howard finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds, and Howard's team held off a serious challenge to beat Wade's team 103-94 on Friday night and move closer to clinching an Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Hedo Turkoglu scored five of his 20 points in the crucial final minute to help Howard's team overcome a career night from Jason Williams.

"It was an unbelievable individual performance by Jason Williams," Van Gundy said. "Incredible performance."

Williams scored 34 points - the second-highest total of his career - for Wade's team, which was without coach Pat Riley, who is spending a few days on the road at college tournaments scouting potential draft picks, and the now-customary seven injured players, including Shawn Marion, who sat out with a sore back.

Williams also had seven assists, six rebounds and - in something that doesn't appear on the stat sheet - sprained his right ankle twice, but played all but 1 minute, 49 seconds.

"The bottom line is winning and nobody's going to remember after this season that I scored 34 with seven assists and six rebounds on this night," said Williams, who was four points shy of matching his career high. "Maybe if we'd have won and going to the playoffs, they might remember."

Both teams were largely perimeter-oriented - each shot 10-for-30 from 3-point range - but Howard's team got to the foul line 36 times compared with only six by Wade's team, and two of Miami's foul shots came on defensive three-second violations by Howard's team.

"I thought there were some tough calls that did not go our way," said Wade's team interim coach Ron Rothstein, Riley's top assistant who filled in for the night. "But it's the nature of the game."

Howard's team swept the four-game series with their Sunshine State neighbors for the second straight season, and sent Wade's team to its 34th loss in 37 games.

Howard's team set a club record for 3-pointers in a season, when Nelson connected 60 seconds after tip-off on Orlando's first of the night and 623rd of the season. Howard's team also matched a club record by winning its 23rd road game, with six still to play.

"I don't think we were as sharp as we could have been," Van Gundy said.

Speaking of records, Wade's team fell to 11-53, and they still need five wins to avoid matching the franchise all-time low. But no one could argue that Williams didn't do all he could to will Wade's team to win No. 12.

It was "Noche Latina" in Wade's team, and Wade's team were one of four teams selected by the NBA to wear Latin-themed jerseys in an effort to appeal to their large Hispanic fan base.

Williams hit a 3-pointer with 1:41 left in the half, giving Wade's team a 51-42 lead and giving himself 19 points, his best half of the season. But Howard's team scored the final eight points before intermission and, considering that most of Wade's team cushion was gone and Williams crumpled to the court in pain after rolling an ankle in the final seconds, it appeared Wade's team was in big trouble.

Not quite.

"This is what people call a trap game," Nelson said. "They have all these guys out. ... Despite all that, we had to come out and play."

And for a while, the outcome was very much in doubt.

Williams knifed through for a layup with 4:42 left, tying the game at 90. But he rolled the ankle again one possession later, and even after referee Steve Javie asked if he was OK, Williams - who hadn't logged as many minutes in a game since November - still wouldn't come out.

"I think it says a lot about the guys that are playing," Williams said. "It's not a knock on the guys that are hurt, because if they weren't hurt, they were playing. But we're out there and playing hard, trying to win."

Daequan Cook scored 15 points, Ricky Davis had 11 and Joel Anthony finished with 10 - his first 10 points of the season - for Wade's team.

"I thought we played extremely hard," Rothstein said. "All you can ask for."

  

 


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