It was milestone night for the Heat.
Erik Spoelstra won his 500th game as a head coach and Miami reached .500 after sitting at 7-13 less than a month ago.
But more importantly, the Heat (16-16) snapped its three-game losing skid to the Magic with a 115-91 victory on Sunday at Amway Center. Miami entered with seven losses to Orlando over the teams’ previous nine meetings, but solved the Magic riddle for at least one night in a blowout that included a lead as big as 26 points.
The victory also extended the Heat’s season-long winning streak to five and marked its ninth win over the past 12 games.
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Despite the lopsided outcome, Orlando still made Miami sweat … a little. With the Heat ahead by 26 points with 3:09 remaining in the third quarter, the Magic trimmed it down to eight with eight minutes to play.
But Miami closed the game on a 23-7 run to clinch the blowout win.
The trademark of this winning stretch has been quality Heat defense. It made an appearance again in Orlando, with the Heat limiting the Magic to 41.4 percent shooting and forcing 19 turnovers.
The difference Sunday was that Miami, which entered with the league’s sixth-worst offensive rating, was also sharp on offense. The Heat made 50.6 percent of its shots, including 16 of 31 three-pointers.
Tyler Johnson’s 20-point third quarter helped. He finished with 25 points on 9 of 15 shooting, and made a career-high six threes.
Justise Winslow was also effective, with 22 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Evan Fournier led the Magic with 17 points.
Miami now returns home for a quick two-day break before hosting the Raptors on Wednesday.
In the zone
The Heat stumbled upon the 2-3 zone in a win over the Clippers on Dec. 8 due to a shorthanded roster and foul trouble.
It worked that night, and Miami has mixed it in to its defensive game plan ever since. The Heat used the zone for the eighth consecutive game in its victory over the Magic.
There is some strategy to when coach Erik Spoelstra implements the zone defense within games. With Miami still primarily playing a man-to-man scheme, the zone seems to catch opponents off guard at times.
In Saturday’s win over the Bucks, the Heat used it in the final three minutes and it worked to slow down Milwaukee’s offense. On Sunday, Miami sprinkled in the zone throughout the game.
“I don’t know,” Spoelstra said when asked how he decides when to use zone. “You know how much I’ve used zone in my career. Right now, it’s by any means necessary. Whatever it takes. We’re preparing to use it. We don’t use it every game and sometimes it’s just based on feel, flow and [assistant coach Juwan Howard] screaming in my ear.”
An Orlando send-off
The Magic recognized Dwyane Wade’s final regular-season game in Orlando, before he retires at the end of the season, with a tribute video in the second quarter of Sunday’s contest.
“There’s no greater compliment, right,’’ Magic coach Steve Clifford said after calling Wade “an ultimate competitor’’ in the past. “I think that from when he first entered the league, he wanted the ball in big spots and he’s always played great in fourth quarters. I mean playoffs, championship series and everything else, I mean he’s just a winning player. And he’s like all of the other great, great players in that he got better every year.’’
Sunday marked Wade’s 24th game played in Orlando over his 16-year NBA career. That includes a 50-point performance against the Magic in a Heat loss on Feb. 22, 2009 at Amway Arena, which is tied for the second-most points Wade has ever scored in a single game and the most points he’s ever finished with on the road.