As Arron Afflalo spends the offseason in Las Vegas working hard to be ready for his second season with the Magic, ArronAfflalo4.com is taking a look back at his first year in Orlando and counting down Arron's Top 5 games of the 2012-2013 regular season.
No. 5: December 31, 2012 vs. Miami Heat
Being in the same division as the defending NBA champion Miami Heat was no easy task for the Orlando Magic during the 2012-2013 season. But to their credit, each time the two teams met, the Magic put their all into it and nearly came up with an upset.
The first such meeting came on the final day of the 2012 calendar year and required five minutes of extra time before it was decided.
Arron Afflalo led the way for the Magic with a team-high 28 points while playing a then season-high 46 minutes and 10 seconds. Arron also grabbed four boards and dished out three assists in an outstanding all around effort.
But Miami waged a late comeback to force overtime, where NBA MVP LeBron James scored 10 of his 36 points to hand the Magic their sixth straight loss, a 112-110 overtime defeat in Orlando on New Year's Eve. Afterward, Arron lamented the missed opportunity to snap their skid and get a confidence-building win.
"The guys played well. It does show that there is a level we can play at," he said. "It's obviously tough, the true character in it all is that we're going to continue to fight, but you would love to win in the process."
Orlando had opportunities to put the game away, most notably after taking a 97-93 lead with two minutes to go on six consecutive points by Arron in the span of 33 seconds.
But the Magic were unable to make the necessary plays defensively to secure the win and consecutive buckets by Chris Bosh tied the score with under a minute remaining. Arron's got a good look at a pull-up game-winner, but missed the mark and the game went to overtime.
"We just have to continue to get a little more focused, especially when the game is on the line. I'm never one to pinpoint a particular play or particular quarter as to why you win an entire basketball game, but when it's a minute left and you have a four-point lead, these are the times we need to learn how to grow a little bit…and as a team, learn how to win."
In the extra session, James caught fire and hit two quick shots to put the Magic on the ropes early. A pair of free throws from Arron trimmed the deficit back to two and Orlando went on a five-point run, capped by a J.J. Redick layup off a feed from No. 4, to take a one-point lead. But after a Dwyane Wade free throw tied it, three straight Orlando turnovers led to two Miami buckets that essentially put the game out of reach. AAA said losing in such a fashion disturbed he and his teammates
"It's more frustrating to compete and actually have the game in hand versus just a team coming in and beating you," he said. "This game was another winnable game for us. In this stretch that we've lost now, only one has really been out of hand. The other games have been in control, to a certain extent. We just have to get better at winning the game."
The Magic backcourt was shorthanded all night without point guard Jameer Nelson and E'Twaun Moore due to injuries. With that the case, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn spoke afterward of how proud he was of players like Arron and Redick, who combined for 51 points and more than 82 minutes of court time.
"We talk about character and how you will be challenged with a little adversity and how you respond," Vaughn said. "I'm proud of how we responded."
But despite one of his top performances of the year in a hard fought battle with the defending champs, Arron left the arena unsatisfied and further motivated.
"We just need to win, we can't really worry about injuries too much," he said. "We need to feel the taste of winning again."
The Magic would lose four more games straight before they finally got over the hump, on January 13. But it was Arron putting the team on his back that night which ended their skid. More on that in a later installment of Arron's Top 5.