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! The HEAT defeated the Magic 117-111 in their last meeting on Dec. 30. 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: What did you think of Miami’s altered lineups in their loss to Detroit?

Couper Moorhead: With Hassan Whiteside out due to an illness (he’s questionable for Monday night) Erik Spoelstra opted to change up most of the starting lineup rather than simply slide in a replacement, starting Bam Adebayo, Justise Winslow and Kelly Olynyk after all three had been playing off the bench. Adebayo in particular played some very strong defense against Detroit’s newly-acquired Blake Griffin – he was shooting 5-of-18 until making some huge plays in the final minute – and Olynyk made some big plays down the stretch as usual but it was James Johnson who might have played the best of all those whose roles changed somewhat. 

While Johnson sometimes has to take a secondary offensive role when starting, off the bench he’s able to run offense while Goran Dragić sits and Saturday night Johnson responded with 18 points, seven assists and five rebounds. We have to be careful with situations like this saying one player is better off the bench than another when the largest statistical difference for Johnson is simply that he hits his threes more often off the bench, but going back to last year he’s appeared more comfortable running offense himself so perhaps this will be a change for the better.

James JohnsonJoe Beguiristain: While the starting lineup took a little while to get going, that second unit led by James Johnson was pretty strong. As Coup mentioned above, Johnson played very well on both ends of the floor and looked more like himself coming off the bench. In addition to leading the team with seven assists and knocking down three treys, he also did his thing on the defensive end and made things very difficult for Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond.

All that said, the night belonged to Goran Dragić, who scored 24 of his season-high 33 points after halftime. Although Dragić had some wise attacks to the rim, he also did a lot of damage from the perimeter both off the dribble and off the catch.

One thing that the new starting lineup did was pair the Slovenian with Kelly Olynyk a bit more, which has yielded good results this season.  In 593 minutes with the duo on the floor, Miami has scored 107.9 points per 100 possessions. That showed on Saturday, as the Dragić/Olynyk combo tallied a team-high plus-11 rating in 27 minutes against the Pistons.

Not too shabby. 

2: Have there been any consistent themes in the matchups with Orlando this season?

Couper: While Orlando has generally given Miami a tough night, winning one of the three matchups and leading by as much as 18 in the third, each game has been its own unique affair due to who was available for the Magic. They had everyone ready to go early in the season, missed Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic in the second game, continued to miss Vucevic in the third and have been without Terrence Ross for much of the season.

We do know that when they’re mostly healthy the Magic’s starting lineup, especially Gordon, Evan Fournier and Elfrid Payton, can give Miami some issues, but their bench – similar to the matchup with Charlotte – offers an opportunity for the HEAT’s depth to make a run. Of course Gordon might not be available to play Monday night so those lineups might be different once again, but the Magic have dropped down to the bottom sixth of defenses in the league and their bench has played a significant part in that.

Joe: As Coup mentioned above, the consistent theme with Orlando this season has been its bad luck with injuries. Case in point: the Magic have fielded a different starting lineup in each matchup with the HEAT this year. Keep in mind that the two teams met three days apart in late December.

Mario Hezonja Now, Orlando is dealing with yet another injury to its best player in Aaron Gordon. The 22-year-old, who is officially listed as questionable with a strained left hip flexor, has been out for the past three games. In his stead, Marreese Speights and Mario Hezonja have stepped up. In fact, Hezonja has averaged 15.3 points on 53.3 percent shooting over that time span.

As a whole, the Magic have actually done a commendable job offensively without Gordon and have scored 113 points per 100 possessions over their past three contests. If the former Arizona star can give it a go on Monday night, that could make things even more difficult for the HEAT.

3: What would you most like to see from Miami Monday night?

Couper: A sizeable victory like their 18-point win over Orlando from December 26. As much as we know the Magic can be a thorn in Miami’s side going back years and years, with the way their season is going the HEAT have an opportunity Monday night. The most important storyline with this team, for months, has been that they lead the league not only in clutch wins but in sheer games total that are within five points in the last five minutes. That leads to plenty of exciting finishes and it’s fun when you’re winning, as the HEAT have done plenty in those games, but the thing about games that come down to a few possessions is that just about anything can happen in those few possessions – a tough three falling against you here, an errant pass going out of bounds there. Close games give you a chance to beat teams ahead of you in the standings, but they also give that same chance to teams behind you. A double-digit win would be exactly what Miami could use to get off their current three-game losing streak.

Joe: I would like to see Miami take care of business on its home floor and bounce back from its three-game losing streak. Although Orlando is a feisty team, the HEAT should be able to impose their will if they stick to their principles.

In particular, Miami could have a great deal of success on the offensive end. Over the past five games, only the Hawks have a worse defensive efficiency rating than the Magic. While Orlando actually does a nice job of defending the three-point line, the team is very susceptible at the rim. That means we could see a lot of attacks from Dragić, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson and pretty much all of the HEAT’s ballhandlers.

If Miami applies pressure early and drives to the bucket with purpose like it normally does, all should be fine.

INJURY UPDATES:

-Hassan Whiteside (illness) did not participate in Monday morning's shootaround, but Erik Spoelstra expects him to be available against Orlando.

-The Magic announced that Gordon will not play.

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Highlights:

Dec. 30 – HEAT at Magic

Dec. 26 – Magic at HEAT

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT have won two straight against the Magic.
  • Orlando has dropped four of five overall and is 15-36 on the year.
  • Goran Dragić leads Miami in points (17.2) and assists (4.7) per game.
  • Elfrid Payton leads the Magic in assists (6.2) and steals (1.5) per game.

 

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 102.9 (25)
  • HEAT Defense: 104.1 (7)
  • Magic Offense: 104.3 (21)
  • Magic Defense: 109.1 (27)

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