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Depleted Magic tops Heat

Preseason games are supposed to let a coach play reserves as well as those players on the bubble of making the final roster.

That's exactly what Magic coach Brian Hill did Wednesday against intrastate rival Miami.

But not by choice.

Center Shaquille O'Neal (blister on his right big toe), power forward Horace Grant (tendinitis in his left foot) and forward Dennis Scott (strained lower back) _ all starters _ sat out the team's 121-117 win before a sellout crowd of 16,010 at the Orlando Arena.

Scott, who actually couldn't sit, went home early. Neither O'Neal's nor Grant's injury are considered serious. But the Magic injury list also included former Miami guard Brian Shaw (strained leg muscle) and backup centers Tree Rollins (tendinitis in his knee) and Greg Kite (concussion).

That left center stage to second-year centers Keith Tower and Geert Hammink, neither of whom have guaranteed contracts and are battling for a spot on the 12-man roster.

"It was great for those two guys," Hill said. "We're going to have tough decisions. Both played well and both have strengths they bring to the team."

Tower, who was with the team last season, had 10 points and 11 rebounds. Hammink, the Magic's second of two first-round draft picks last year who played in Italy before signing with Orlando in the final week of the regular season, had 13 points and 12 rebounds.

After the Heat erased a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit and tied the score at 116 in the final minute, Hammink grabbed three crucial rebounds and made 4 of 6 free throws to seal the win.

"I don't wish an injury on anybody, but this was an opportunity for me," he said. "You can always do better. I wish I had hit my free throws; that's unlike me to miss. And I let some rebounds slip through my hands. But hopefully I showed somebody something."

Neither Hammink nor Tower was tested by the Heat's best big men.

Rony Seikaly (sprained right ankle), Matt Geiger (hip pointer) and John Salley (food poisoning) didn't play. The Heat's starting center was Alec Kessler, who had five fouls in the opening quarter.

The Heat (2-2), which played Phoenix on Tuesday, also rested many of its starters. Glen Rice and Dream Team II guard Steve Smith played only the first quarter and top pick Khalid Reeves was slowed by tendinitis in his knee and played only in the second quarter.

Instead, coach Kevin Loughery took long looks at Brad Lohaus, Chucky Brown, Keith Askins, Kevin Pritchard, Ledell Eackles and Steve Henson.

Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway stole the show. In the final 2:15 of the half, he was almost single-handedly responsible for the Magic's 56-55 halftime lead.

He made four free throws and a jumper, hit Anthony Avent with a no-look pass for a layup and then, after a steal at midcourt, fired a perfect bounce pass to a streaking Anthony Bowie for a layup. Hardaway finished with a game-high 22 points, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals.

Notes: Scott isn't expected to make the trip west for the next three exhibition games. O'Neal said he would play the next game and Grant said he's day-to-day.

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