ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Miami center Hassan White had 18 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots and point guard Goran Dragic added 16 points as the Heat cruised to a 108-96 season-opening victory over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night.
The Heat, taking advantage of the one-game suspension of Orlando center Bismack Biyombo, dominated inside all game with Whiteside and Willie Reed off the bench. Neither Nikola Vucevic nor Serge Ibaka could match the athleticism and strength of the 7-foot Whiteside inside.
The new-look Heat, playing without Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh this season, outscored the Magic in the paint 74-36 and outrebounded them 52-44.
Vucevic finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds while Evan Fournier added 20 points. Ibaka, making his debut with the Magic, managed 14 points on 6-of-17 shooting.
With Whiteside blocking shots and altering others, the Heat opened a 66-58 lead midway through the third quarter courtesy of a 7-0 run and never looked back.
The game had been tied 13 times and the lead had changed teams 14 times up to that point.
The Magic’s season-opening loss spoiled the debut of new coach Frank Vogel, whose team consistently came up short on the defensive end. Orlando allowed Miami to shoot 48 percent from the field.
Heat: Second-year guard Josh Richardson did not play Wednesday night due to a sprained MCL in his right knee. … Both Tyler Johnson and James Johnson came off the bench to give the Heat a boost, scoring eight points each in the first half.
Magic: Point guard Elfrid Payton had a strong first half with 12 points, which included going 8 for 8 from the free throw line to help Orlando to a 53-50 halftime lead.
Orlando guard Evan Fournier says there is no better opponent for the Magic to start the season with than their in-state rival Miami.
There is no love lost between the franchises.
“Playing Miami the first game is special,” Fournier said. “We don’t like them and they don’t like us. It’s no secret.”
With Biyombo serving an NBA-mandated one-game suspension for exceeding the flagrant foul limit in last season’s playoffs, the Magic had to shift some things around. Ibaka had to slide over and play center quite a bit when Orlando went to its smaller lineup and Vucevic went to the bench.
But there is no question the Magic miss Biyombo’s presence on both ends of the court.
“Bis is a monster and he is our best screener and probably our best offensive rebounder,” Fournier said. “He is just a guy with tons of energy and he plays super hard. He’s big for us.”
Heat: Miami will open its home schedule on Friday against the Charlotte Hornets without Wade on the roster for the first time since the Heat drafted him in in the first round in 2003. Wade is playing for the Chicago Bulls.
Magic: On Friday Orlando begins an early season three-game road swing with the first stop at The Palace of Auburn Hills to take on the Detroit Pistons. The
Magic will also play NBA champion Cleveland and then Philadelphia on the trip.
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