Miami HEAT at Orlando Magic Game Preview

Photo Credit: Fernando Medina

The Miami HEAT face the Orlando Magic Saturday night at Amway Center. The HEAT defeated the Magic 107-89 in their last meeting on Dec. 26. Tip-off is set for 7:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 6:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1: Is there anything worth really digging into about the loss to Brooklyn?

Couper Moorhead: Not in particular. While there might have been some natural regression in Miami’s shooting (3-of-26 from three) after they had been so hot for almost all of December, this wasn’t a game you explain away with poor shooting or anything schematically related.

As Erik Spoelstra said following the loss, “Obviously it’s an extremely challenging team to figure out.” We can just leave it at that.

Joe Beguiristain: Not really. It was just a tough loss to a Nets team that was firing on all cylinders.

Perhaps the lone bright spot was Hassan Whiteside, who got off to a quick start and finished with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Throughout the contest, the big fella was quite active on both ends, as he set good screens for his teammates and altered a handful of shots at the rim. We’ll see if he can carry over his sharp play into Orlando.

2: How were the HEAT able to pull away from Orlando last game and is it something they can replicate?

Couper: Yes and no. Yes in the sense that Miami, the bench unit in particular, really turned on the defensive jets in the second half. That got them out in transition and on a roll offensively, which helped turn the affair into a double-digit lead with Wayne Ellington hitting everything on the perimeter. But no in the sense that you can’t always count on the other team coughing up so many live-ball turnovers, especially away from the rim, nor can you count on such exceptional shooting. That’s why defensive consistency and getting the right shots at all times is so important – those are things you can directly control every night you take the court.

Joe: In that last matchup, the HEAT really clamped down defensively in the fourth quarter and held the Magic to just 8-of-22 shooting in the period. Of course, Wayne Ellington and Josh Richardson played a part as well with a combined 26 points on 9-of-11 shooting in the fourth.

While shooting like that is hard to replicate, Miami’s defensive pressure, which led to some good looks in transition, can translate. As Coup stated above, the HEAT can’t rely on a bunch of turnovers once again, but they can put themselves in a good position to force them. In that previous meeting, Tyler Johnson made things very tough for Jonathon Simmons, while Richardson did the same against Evan Fournier.  That said, Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo actually led the team with a combined 13 deflections and 24 shots contested.

It’ll take that type of collective effort once more in order to come away with the win. 

3: What will Aaron Gordon’s return to the lineup change compared to last game?

Couper: Gordon might be Orlando’s best player, which might not be the popular opinion yet but it very well could be soon. Having him back is an obvious boon and played a significant part in the Magic beating Detroit on Thursday night.

As for how it related to this matchup, it matters especially with Miami again without James Johnson and Justise Winslow. Bismack Biyombo was a minus-25 in the previous game, and now Frank Vogel will have more options as to his lineups meaning he can play Gordon at center and force Miami to either cross-match or match-up in the same way that Brooklyn played Rondae Hollis-Jefferson at center. The HEAT are down to their guard rotation with Hassan Whiteside, Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo rotating in the big spots, and while all three are perfectly capable of playing center in smaller lineups Spoelstra doesn’t have his two versatile wings that unlock so many lineup options.

In other words, Gordon matters a ton to Orlando, but perhaps a little more to this game given Miami’s injuries.

Joe: Aaron Gordon changes a lot for the Magic since he can do so many different things. In addition to being able to move off the ball and finish lobs, Gordon has also added the three-point shot to his arsenal. In fact, he’s shooting a career-high 41 percent from deep on 5.3 attempts per game. As such, the Magic score 106.7 points per 100 possessions with Gordon on the floor, which is the second-best on the team behind Nikola Vučević. What's more, both Gordon and Elfrid Payton have really good chemistry and seem to feed off each other’s success.

Long story short, the 22-year-old forward makes Orlando’s offense flow much better. With James Johnson and Justise Winslow still out, Olynyk and Jordan Mickey will likely have to guard Gordon for a majority of the contest. Regardless, it should be a fun matchup. 

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Highlights:

Dec. 26 – Magic at HEAT

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT have won three of five and are 18-17.
  • The Magic snapped a nine-game losing streak with a win over the Pistons on Thursday and enter the contest at 12-24.
  • Goran Dragić leads Miami in points (16.2) and assists (4.4) per game.
  • Evan Fournier leads Orlando in scoring at 18.1 points per contest.

 

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 102.5 (25)
  • HEAT Defense: 104.6 (14)
  • Magic Offense: 102.7 (23)
  • Magic Defense: 107.7 (24)

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