Orlando Magic at Miami HEAT Game Preview

Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon

The Miami HEAT host the Orlando Magic Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM, and television coverage is on FOX Sports Sun. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket. The game is presented by Miami Cancer Institute at Baptist Health South Florida.

1: With the road slate of the preseason finished, what have we learned about the HEAT so far?

Couper Moorhead: The short answer is probably not a ton. We’ve seen a healthy Hassan Whiteside and otherwise strong performances up and down the roster. We’ve seen an increased pace and an emphasis on getting into the paint. We’ve also seen the team go through stretches where they look like nobody can stop them from scoring, and stretches where they have struggled to put points on the board. The main thing to remind yourself of is that the HEAT have been missing nearly half of their roster in each game and its nearly impossible to get a proper read on the team without those players on the court (a couple of them might be back on Monday, given practice participation on Sunday and Josh Richardson no longer being on the injury report). Sometimes there are lessons to learn from preseason. Sometimes, and this is the case at the moment, you must caution yourself against trying to find things that aren’t quite there.

Joe Beguiristain: As Coup mentioned above, it’s hard to take much away from the preseason thus far since so many main contributors have been out of the lineup. But even though it’s important to take things with a grain of salt, guys like Hassan Whiteside, Rodney McGruder, Goran Dragić and Yante Maten have stood out.

We’ve mentioned McGruder a ton in this space over the course of the preseason, but he just keeps upping the ante on both ends of the floor. The 27-year-old has not only recorded a team-best 91.7 defensive rating over the past three games despite covering the opposition’s best offensive player, but he’s also tallied a 9.5 net rating during that span (the best among players averaging over 14 minutes per contest).

Whiteside, meanwhile, has been very active on both ends, Dragić has done his usual damage off transition buckets and Maten has shown his offensive versatility more often than not.

We’ll see if those guys can keep it up.

Goran Dragić2: Do you think the HEAT will be able to sustain the increased pace we’ve seen in the preseason so far?

Couper: Averaging 108.5 possessions a game, the HEAT are playing at a pace far, far and away above anything they’ve played at over a full season. But guess what? That only ranks them 13th among all teams in preseason pace. It’s a running theme from preseason to preseason that most teams want to increase their pace, and coupled with defenses not being particularly locked in to their opponent’s tendencies you typically see a pace this time of year that doesn’t end up reflecting what will happen in the regular season. That’s not to say Miami’s pace can’t or won’t be higher than it was last year – league pace has been going up year over year for the last five years or so – it’s just not likely it will remain this fast. In the end, if you only add a possession or two to your average pace but your team is pushing off rebounds and initiating early often enough, then even moderate gains can have a major impact.

Joe: I don’t think the HEAT can sustain their current average of 108.5 possessions per game (which is crazy high and a product of the preseason), but they should be able to average more than they did a year ago.

Based on Miami’s play over the past three outings, it’s clear that the team has put an emphasis on pushing off misses and getting out in transition. Now, we’ve seen that quite often with Dragić since that’s his bread and butter, but it’s cool to see that as a team-wide initiative. And with a speed demon like Dragić and strong perimeter defenders in McGruder, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow, why not?

3: What’s new about the Orlando Magic that we can look for Monday night?

Couper: They have a new head coach in Steve Clifford that HEAT fans will remember from that seven-game series with the Charlotte Hornets three years ago. They no longer have Elfrid Payton, now in New Orleans, who always gave Miami a little trouble and will now start D.J. Augustin at point. The greatest change, however, might be the presence of lottery pick Mo Bamba, who has one of the widest wingspans in league history and happens to be 4-of-4 from three in two games this preseason. Bamba is still just a rookie and much of the team’s success this season will likely center on the improvement of Aaron Gordon and sophomore Jonathan Issac, but Bamba has the potential to be one of the most unique players, and best defenders, in the league and it’s well worth your time to focus on him Monday night.

Joe: Although the Magic’s core of Evan Fournier, Jonathon Simmons, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vučević is largely intact, new Head Coach Steve Clifford brought in some added depth when he drafted Mo Bamba out of Texas in June and traded Bismack Biyombo for Jerian Grant and Timofey Mozgov in a three-team deal in early July.

Since Coup chronicled Bamba’s impact above, I’ll get into Grant. D.J. Augustin will continue to start at point guard like he did once Elfrid Payton got traded last year, but Grant provides solid playmaking ability and stout defense off the bench. In 17 minutes against Flamengo on Friday, the 25-year-old dished out a team-high seven assists and tallied a 75.8 defensive rating. Of course the competition will get much tougher, but Grant has been able to do those kinds of things throughout his three-year career.

INJURY UPDATE

  • Bam Adebayo (Right AC Joint Sprain) - Doubtful
  • Wayne Ellington (Left Ankle Soreness) - Out
  • James Johnson (Sports Hernia Surgery) - Out
  • Derrick Jones Jr. (Right Shoulder Bruise) - Out
  • Dion Waiters (Left Ankle Surgery) - Out

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