Orlando Magic at Miami HEAT Game Preview
Photo Credit: Oscar Baldizon
The Miami HEAT host the Orlando Magic Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT fell to the Magic 116-109 in their last meeting on Oct. 18. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: Days later, is there anything worth keeping in mind from the home loss to New Orleans?
Couper Moorhead: Not really, due to all the mitigating circumstances. Saturday wasn’t the team’s best game by any mark and there was some natural regression after the best shooting game in franchise history, but it was also a strange home back-to-back and Miami was missing Hassan Whiteside against the most talented frontcourt in the league. Goran Dragić did play with an elbow injury but didn’t appear to be 100 percent and James Johnson made it through just eight minutes before a foot injury took him back out of the lineup. In other words, it was a weird day with an in-flux lineup against a very talented Pelicans team that also happened to shoot 60 percent from deep. There are certainly issues to clean up, particularly stopping interior cutting actions, but getting healthy is the most important part right now.
Joe Beguiristain: Not necessarily. Although Goran Dragić and James Johnson returned to action (the latter exited the game early in the second quarter due to injury), Miami just didn’t have enough against New Orleans. Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins played alright, but Ian Clark and E'Twaun Moore’s 34 points on 14-of-23 shooting combined really made the difference.
One positive for the HEAT was that Bam Adebayo earned some valuable experience against two very tough bigs in Davis and Cousins. Adebayo actually forced Davis into some tough shots in the first half and made him earn everything he got. While the four-time All-Star eventually picked up some steam after halftime, it was still an impressive effort by Adebayo.
As with all rookies, you’re going to have mistakes and miscues here and there, but the 20-year-old has improved more and more with each passing game.
2: After their hot start to the season, why has Orlando dipped down in the standings?
Couper: Orlando was the talk of the league through the first few weeks of the season as they started off 8-4 with wins over the Cavaliers and Spurs. That had them Top 3 in the Eastern Conference. They then lost nine games in a row and currently sit in the Bottom 3.
What changed? To start, Orlando was shooting 41 percent from three through those first 12 games. In the last 22 games, of which they’ve won three, they’re shooting 33.4 percent from deep. In a league where you almost have to shoot to win, that’s more than enough of a drop to change a team’s fortunes.
It’s not just that the Magic have cooled off, however. As much as it feels like Miami has dealt with health issues, Orlando has had eight missed games from starter Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon (still shooting over 40 percent from three, actually), Terrence Ross is out for an extended period of time after his shooting was supposed to give so much more space to a unit that has lacked it in recent years, point guards Elfrid Payton and D.J. Augstin have both missed time and now Nikola Vučević is out for at least six weeks after breaking his hand the same night Miami lost to the Pelicans. Few teams can shoot at an elite level for an entire season, but fewer still can deal with so many injuries.
Joe: Talk about a precipitous fall.
After Orlando looked unstoppable through the first three weeks of the season, the team has dropped 19 of its last 22. During that time span, the Magic have the 27th-ranked offense (scoring 100.9 points per 100 possessions) and the worst defense in the league (giving up 112.1 points per 100 possessions).
To be fair, injuries have a lot to do with Orlando’s struggles this season. As Coup mentioned above, numerous key contributors (including the team’s best player in Aaron Gordon) have missed time. As of this writing, Gordon, Evan Fournier and Jonathan Isaac are all questionable for Tuesday night’s matchup. Nikola Vučević and Terrence Ross, meanwhile, are out.
While Jonathon Simmons and Elfrid Payton have shouldered a bulk of the scoring load with Fournier and Gordon out, Mario Hezonja has also played very well of late. In fact, the 22-year-old has averaged 16.8 points, four rebounds and two steals per game on 49.1 percent shooting over his past four outings. In addition to stretching the floor for the Magic, Hezonja can also do damage in transition when given the opportunity.
3: How will the absence of Nikola Vučević change this matchup?
Couper: While the statuses of Fournier, Gordon and rookie Jonathan Issac are all up in the air as of the time of this writing (before Tuesday’s shootaround), we do know that Orlando will be without the services of perpetual thorn in Miami’s side Vučević. Anyone who has watched Miami over the last six years or so will understand how helpful that is to a HEAT group also trying to get all of its players back on the floor.
Beyond the simple fact of Vučević not playing is that Orlando doesn’t have extensive options to replace him. We could see Bismack Biyombo start and while he is a fine defensive player he won’t be able to stretch the HEAT’s defense around the floor like the Magic’s usual starter. Marreese Speights, who will likely receive a boost in minutes, can stretch the floor but doesn’t have the best defensive reputation himself. In other words, Orlando doesn’t have a lot of balance to fill in behind Vučević, so it won’t be too surprising to see Frank Vogel play Gordon at center a fair bit if he’s able to return.
Joe: Not having Vučević makes things even tougher for an already-ailing Orlando squad. The 7-footer was one of the Magic’s most steady presences, as he was one of just three players on the team to play all 34 games up until this point. Above all else though, the 27-year-old’s versatility on the offensive end is what made him so important. In addition to doing damage in the paint, Vučević also knocked down the mid-range jumper at a solid 44.3 percent clip.
With the Montenegrin out for a while, Bismack Biyombo will likely get the start moving forward. Although Biyombo is much better defensively, he’s nowhere near the offensive player Vučević is. That said, Biyombo and Adebayo are both high-energy players, so it should still be a fun matchup to watch on Tuesday night.
INJURY UPDATE: Hassan Whiteside (knee) went through Tuesday morning's shootaround and is going to warm up with the intent to play.
- The HEAT have won four of six and are 17-16 on the year.
- The Magic have dropped eight straight and enter the contest at 11-23.
- Bam Adebayo is averaging 10 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game over his last seven.
- Elfrid Payton leads Orlando in assists (6.4) and steals (1.4) per contest.
- HEAT Offense: 102.9 (23)
- HEAT Defense: 104.8 (13)
- Magic Offense: 103.0 (22)
- Magic Defense: 108.2 (26)