Denton: Vucevic Out Tonight as Short-Handed Magic Prepare for Scorching Heat

By John Denton
March 25, 2013

ORLANDO – As if their degree of difficulty weren’t high enough already what with four starters out, the Orlando Magic will attempt to do the impossible tonight when they try and beat the surging Miami Heat.

Miami comes into the sold-out Amway Center tonight riding a 26-game winning streak, and a 27th consecutive victory would move it closer to the all-time NBA record of 33 in a row set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.

Standing in their way is a Magic team that has taken the Heat to the brink twice already this season. And the Magic (18-52) will be trying to take down the Heat (55-14) without Nikola Vucevic (concussion), Arron Afflalo (hamstring tear), Glen Davis (broken foot) and Hedo Turkoglu (NBA suspension). Davis and Turkoglu have been out most of the season, but the Magic have only recently had to get used to life without Afflalo (injured on Friday) and Vucevic (injured on Tuesday).

Still, their mission tonight against the surging Heat is clear: Win and end Miami’s streak.

``It’s going to be fun,’’ said Magic rookie forward Maurice Harkless, who is coming off a career-best 25 points in Friday’s game against Oklahoma City. ``We’re going to try and do what 26 other teams didn’t do. We’re going to go out there and play hard and try to get a win.’’

Tipoff is just after 7 p.m. ESPN is televising the game nationally, while Fox Sports Florida will have the game locally on an exclusive basis. A record crowd of 19,311 saw the Magic and Heat play earlier this season and tonight’s crowd could exceed that total.

Miami’s streak very well could have died at 16 games on March 6 if the Magic would have been able to hold a five-point lead in the final minutes and a one-point advantage in the final seconds. The Magic had three players foul out down the stretch, and the Heat won by one point when superstar forward LeBron James converted a game-winning layup with 3.2 seconds remaining.

Orlando lost 112-110 in overtime to the Heat on Dec. 31 before the largest crowd to ever see a basketball game in Orlando. In that game, Orlando led by as much as 11 points in the second half and was ahead by four with 67 seconds to play. The Heat managed to get the game to overtime where James scored 10 of his 36 points in the extra period.

Not having Vucevic will greatly impact the Magic. The second-year center has 50 rebounds in two games against the Heat – a franchise-record 29 in December and another 21 earlier this month. Rookie Kyle O’Quinn is expected to start in his place tonight.

``I think we’ve found some things and some gaps in their defense, especially in that second half (on March 6), that helped us out,’’ Magic point guard Jameer Nelson said. ``Nik obviously played a big part in our scoring and his size hurt them in terms of rebounding the ball. His rebounding totals were phenomenal the first two games and we’ll miss him a lot. But last game against OKC, the guys stepping in – Kyle and Andrew (Nicholson) – did a good job for us.’’

Miami could be without star guard Dwyane Wade once again because of a sore knee. The Heat played without Wade on Sunday night and still pushed their streak to 26 games by beating Charlotte.

Orlando will be catching Miami on the second night of a back-to-back set of games, but that factor hasn’t slowed the Heat down one bit this season. Miami is 11-1 this season on the second night of back-to-backs, drawing raves from the likes of Nelson and many others around the NBA.

``I’m quite sure there will be a lot of people here who want to see the streak continue. But we have nothing to lose and we should just go out there and play as hard as we can and leave it out there,’’ Nelson said. ``What (the Heat) are doing is a great thing. And what we could possibly to (by ending the streak) would possibly be a great thing, too.’’

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