They never expected any of this to come easy.
The Miami Heat were well aware of the challenges of defending their NBA championship. They just didn't figure it to be this difficult.
The Heat needed a fourth-quarter rally to capture a 112-110 victory in overtime against the undermanned Orlando Magic Monday at Amway Center. The win snapped Miami's two-game losing streak, but it was yet another struggle.
"No matter who you're playing, who is in the uniform, you've got to fight for every win in this league, particularly on the road," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We haven't been playing particularly well on the road so maybe this will change the dynamic and hopefully we'll have a paradigm shift in 2013 and we'll take off and start playing the way we're capable of on the road."
LeBron James scored 10 of his game-high 36 points in the extra period and Dwyane Wade had a key steal to help avoid the upset. With the Heat leading 108-106, Wade stole an errant pass by Magic guard J.J. Redick and put the game away with a breakaway dunk.
"I think Ray (Allen) took a hit and he went down," Wade said. "I think when he went down, J.J. looked at Hedo (Turkoglu) and it was open. But I said it was too much space in between, so I knew could run through. My only job was not to hit the ball too far where I couldn't go chase it down."
Redick said, "I saw Ray fall so I would make that pass 10 out of 10 times. I would never not make that pass to an open teammate …Dwyane made a great play."
Wade scored 21 points and center Chris Bosh had 22 points and four rebounds. The Heat's Big Three combined for 79 points, offsetting big games from the Magic's Nikola Vucevic and Arron Afflalo. Vucevic ended with 20 points and a career-high 29 rebounds while Afflalo scored 28 points on 9 of 19 shooting.
Orlando, playing without injured starters Glen Davis and Jameer Nelson, led by as many as 11 in the second half. They took a 77-66 lead after Josh McRoberts scored on a layup with 50 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
"They are NBA players," James said. "We're all in the league for a reason. It doesn't matter what the name on the back of the jersey says or whatever the case may be. We are all NBA players."
It was then when the Heat finally awoke.
Joel Anthony had a tip-in basket at the buzzer to spark the charge. The Heat then scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter to somewhat restore order. After Mike Miller hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 77, they grabbed their first lead on James' dunk after a turnover.
The Magic refused to break.
Redick and Ray Allen exchanged 3-pointers on three straight possessions, with Redick's last basket putting the Magic ahead 83-82 with 8:17 left. The Heat made a late run just when it appeared Orlando had created some separation on Arron Afflalo's jumper that made it 89-84.
Miami responded with a 7-0 run, including a James' fadeaway 3-pointer that gave it a 91-89 lead with 3:36 left. The Magic once again had an answer. After regaining the lead on an Afflalo layup, he hit a 3-pointer that made it 97-93.
The Heat then scored six of the next eight points to force overtime. They had a chance to win in regulation, but Bosh's attempt hit the side of the backboard.
"That's a sign of a team," Wade said. "Things are not going good for us. We lost two in a row … We dug in against a team that played very well. They got a lot of guys on that court that half of the NBA probably never heard of but them guys kept working … They pushed us to the limit and we were able to get it done."