Orlando Magic at Miami HEAT Game Preview

Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon

The Miami HEAT host the Orlando Magic Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now for Nurses Appreciation Night! 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.

1: Were there any lessons to learn from the close win against the Jazz?

Couper Moorhead: While it’s not surprising coming from a Utah game, given that seemingly every Miami-Utah game has to come down to the final possessions forever and ever, it was in many ways a prototypical victory for this specific iteration of the HEAT. With Miami holding their opponent to an Offensive Rating below 105 while hitting over 40 percent of their own threes, the team improved to 19-4 over the past 2.5 seasons when hitting those marks. Interestingly enough that’s also how the Utah Jazz win a ton of their own games but as has been their story of the season they couldn’t capitalize on enough of their open looks, including an open Donovan Mitchell three that would have won the game in the finals seconds. It’s funny how those sort of shots even out over time, with Josh Richardson missing an open three just two games ago against the Atlanta Hawks – but the more you play close games, as we’ve said again and again, the more you’re at the mercy of Rear Admiral Random.

Joe Beguiristain: As we expected heading into the night, it was yet another slugfest between the two defensive-minded teams. And while Donovan Mitchell missed a solid look at the end that would have won the game, the HEAT threw multiple guys at him throughout the night to keep him off balance. In particular, Justise Winslow fared the best and came through with some great segments of defense against the dynamic Jazz guard.  

On the flip side of the ball, Dwyane Wade did his thing in the fourth to ensure the victory. Thanks to a catch-and-shoot trey, a blow-by drive past Joe Ingles and two clutch free throws, Wade scored seven of Miami’s last 10 points.

Fourth quarter Flash, everybody.  

Steve Clifford2: With the previous loss to Orlando way back in the opening week of the season, does anything from that game still apply six weeks later?

Couper: I don’t know that we should ever try to predict any game involving the HEAT and Magic. If there’s any Miami matchup where unusual things tend to happen, even beyond the regular close games with Utah, it’s with Orlando – and there’s no real rhyme or reason to it. These teams have games where everybody can score and shoot, and they have games like the first one this season where nobody could score or shoot.

It is worth noting, however, that in general this Orlando teams seems a bit different, a bit more mature than Magic teams in the past – even ones that started the season hot. Some of that comes from head coach Steve Clifford, some of it comes from the team being relatively healthy, but it’s also about the improvement of young players like Aaron Gordon and especially Jonathan Issac, who is becoming an absolute problem on the defensive end. There’s a long season yet to go, but this Orlando team has the look of one you have to take seriously in the playoff race until proven otherwise.

Joe: Since that previous matchup came on Opening Night, it’s tough to glean too much from it, especially since Goran Dragić played and Winslow and James Johnson were out with injuries.

Having said that, both Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo had solid performances against Orlando’s strong frontcourt. Whiteside got things started off on the right foot and recorded a double-double with 12 points, 18 boards and two blocks, while Adebayo came alive in the second half and made things tough on Nikola Vučević more often than not.  

And while the Magic have had an up-and-down season thus far, they’re better on the defensive end than you might think. Case in point, Orlando held Miami to a paltry 98.1 offensive rating in that last meeting.

You can thank Steve Clifford for that.

3: Where does Miami need to focus defensively Tuesday night?

Couper: The answer is Nikola Vučević, always. He only shot 4-of-12 in that season-opener but he’s having a career year at 28, averaging better than 20 and 10 with a career-high in assists at nearly four per game. He’s even completed the stretching-out process to three, much like Brook Lopez did a couple years ago, shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc on about three attempts a night. Given his prowess in the post there really isn’t a good answer for a player who can score from just about anywhere. You just have to play him strong, contest his shots – ideally keeping those shots in the mid-range – and make him uncomfortable with some carefully timed help. Orlando has proven they can beat Miami without a big game from their big man, but there’s still no more important player to their offense after all these years.

Joe: Since Coup already brought up Vuč, I’ll delve into Aaron Gordon.

While Gordon has struggled from the perimeter this season, he’s pretty much automatic in the restricted area.

Need proof?

He’s shooting a ridiculous 72.7 percent (72-of-99) from that zone. 72.7 percent! As such, JJ has to make sure he stays in front of the 23-year-old Gordon at all times.

Another guy to take note of is D.J. Augustin, who actually leads the Magic with a 109.9 offensive rating. In addition to being able to finish at the rim thanks to his quick first step (he averages a team-high 9.0 drives per game), the 31-year-old vet also knows how to set up his teammates. In fact, he’s averaging 7.3 assists per game over his past four outings.

We’ll see how the HEAT approach both Gordon and Augustin on Tuesday night.

INJURY UPDATE: Derrick Jones Jr. (Right Hamstring Strain) and Tyler Johnson (Right Hamstring Strain) are expected to play. Rodney McGruder (Right Ankle Sprain) and James Johnson (Illness) are questionable. Goran Dragić (Right Knee Injury) and Dion Waiters (Left Ankle Surgery) remain out.

Magic at HEAT Head To Head

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT have won two straight and are 9-13 on the year.
  • The Magic have dropped two of three and enter the contest at 11-12.
  • Dwyane Wade is averaging 21.5 points and 5.8 assists per game over his past four outings.
  • Nikola Vučević leads Orlando in points (21.0) and rebounds (11.3) per game.

 Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 105.6 (25)
  • HEAT Defense: 106.8 (10)
  • Magic Offense: 106.1 (24)
  • Magic Defense: 108.6 (17)

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