Dwight Howard scored 22 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, passing Wilt Chamberlain as the youngest NBA player to reach the 5,000-board mark, and the Magic kept their grip on the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference by beating the Heat 101-95 on Monday night.
Rashard Lewis scored 21 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:32 remaining for Orlando (55-18), which stayed five games behind Cleveland and percentage points ahead of defending champion Boston in the East race.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game,” Lewis said, “but we were able to stick around and get the win at the end.”
Dwyane Wade scored 13 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter for the Heat (39-35), whose edge over Philadelphia for the East’s No. 5 seed was trimmed to one game, despite the lift that came from seeing Mourning’s jersey being retired.
“Still a great night for the franchise and Alonzo. That was a heck of a ceremony and no one deserved that more,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It was great to finally see one of ours from the Miami Heat family go up there. It was a special night.”
Just not special enough for Miami, which lost a game and a key reserve.
Backup point guard Luther Head broke his left hand during the game and will miss four to six weeks, meaning there likely will be no way he’s available for Miami’s first-round playoff series.
“It means other guys will have to step up more,” Wade said. “I’m fine having the ball in my hands more. That’s no problem at all.”
The series has been one-sided, with Orlando having won 12 of the last 13 meetings between the clubs.
This game, most assuredly, was not.
Hedo Turkoglu scored 16 points, Rafer Alston added 13 and Courtney Lee finished with 10 for Orlando. Mario Chalmers scored 13 points and had seven assists for the Heat, and Jermaine O’Neal added 10 for Miami.
There were seven lead changes and four ties in the final 5:49, with Wade— as typically is the case—carrying most of the offensive load for Miami. Three times in a span of 2 1/2 minutes, Wade either had a dunk or a layup that gave the Heat the lead, the last of those coming with 2:52 left and putting Miami up 92-91.
Orlando simply wasn’t rattled.
Howard rattled home the second of two free throws to tie it, Lewis got free for a 3-pointer from near the Heat bench, and Turkoglu found Howard under the basket for a layup that put the Magic up 97-92 with 50.5 seconds remaining.
Miami got within two on Wade’s free throws with 17 seconds left, but J.J. Redick answered those with a pair of his own 2 seconds later, and Orlando escaped—spoiling the Mourning party.
“The one thing our team deserves credit for is they have a lot of resolve,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “There are nights we don’t play very well. Tonight I thought we made two good plays in the game and came out with the win.”
Howard reached the 5,000-rebound mark—he now has 5,006—at the age of 23 years, 112 days. Chamberlain was 25 years, 128 days old when he got his 5,000th rebound, and Howard said he, just like the Heat, was inspired by the Mourning celebration.
“I was getting a bit teary eyed watching the ceremony, just to see how emotional it was,” Howard said.
Howard wasn’t the only one. Mourning’s friends and family took bets on whether he’d cry during the halftime celebration, and he insisted he wouldn’t.
Zo was wrong.
The 43-minute ceremony featured the reading of a letter from President Barack Obama, plus brief speeches from Gov. Charlie Crist, Heat president Pat Riley, Mourning’s former Georgetown coach John Thompson and fellow former Hoya Patrick Ewing, a longtime mentor.
“Just eight short years ago, eight short years ago, I didn’t envision this moment happening,” Mourning said, moments after the banner bearing his name and No. 33 was raised. “This is probably one of the greatest moments of my life and I’m honored to be here this evening.”
As the speeches went on, Mourning’s eyes began to water. Tears flowed and his lips trembled when the banner was being hoisted.
“Y’all can go and collect your money,” Mourning said.
Orlando led 46-43 after a back-and-forth first half, where the Heat started fast, went ice cold to fall into a double-digit hole, then clawed back.
Halftime for NBA games that aren’t nationally televised are typically 14 minutes. Monday’s was supposed to be 24 minutes to accommodate the Mourning ceremony, but by the time the game actually resumed, roughly the equivalent of three halftimes had passed.
“It was a little long, especially when we’ve been told 24 minutes,” said Van Gundy, who coached Mourning in Miami as well. “Competitively, they sat for 42 minutes also, so there is no competitive advantage. I think it’s fitting that he’s the first Heat player that goes up there.”
Whenever the Magic seemed poised to take control, Miami fought back.
Lewis made a 3-pointer with 2:01 left for a 70-63 Orlando lead, but the Heat scored the final six points of the quarter and were only down by one heading into the fourth.