Magic Know Heat Will Be Hungry for Win Following Miami's Lopsided Loss to Brooklyn

By John Denton
Dec. 30, 2017

ORLANDO – In the NBA, there’s long been a running debate over which foe is more difficult to play – the one that is red-hot and riding a lengthy winning streak or the one embarrassed and desperate following a humbling loss?

The Orlando Magic will once again get to test that theory tonight at the Amway Center when they host a Miami Heat team coming off a lopsided loss.

Orlando (12-24) stopped the streaking Detroit Pistons on Thursday night for a much-needed victory, but tonight it must face a Miami team likely looking to prove itself after a disastrous 111-87 home loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday. The Heat (18-17) trailed by as much as 38 points and lost at home by at least 15 points for the fifth time this season.

The Magic know that they will likely face a desperate Heat team tonight in the third meeting between the two Sunshine State Squads.

``I don’t know which is tougher, but the team coming off a loss you know they are going to bring great effort and energy,’’ Magic coach Frank Vogel said. ``They’re probably embarrassed and want to respond from a tough performance.’’

Orlando has recently been through the drill of facing a desperate team coming off a lopsided loss. Just last week, the Washington Wizards lost 119-84 in Brooklyn only to turn around a night later and drop 130 points on the Magic in D.C. Similarly, Utah lost118-107 in Brooklyn on Nov. 17 only to come to Orlando a night later and win 125-85.

Added Vogel: ``This happened to us a few games ago with the Washington Wizards. We’d like to thank Brooklyn to keep doing this prior to our games. Washington came out charged up and played a terrific basketball game and I expect the same from Miami.’’

The Magic expect Aaron Gordon (calf strain) and Evan Fournier (ankle/foot soreness) to play tonight even though both were limited in drills on Friday. Jonathan Isaac (ankle soreness) is out, as is Nikola Vucevic (broken left hand) and Terrence Ross (knee sprain).

The Magic are coming off an impressive 102-89 whipping of Detroit, a team that had won five of six games prior to Thursday’s showdown at the Amway Center. Orlando not only got Gordon (14 points and seven rebounds) and Fournier (17 points, five assists and three 3-pointers) back from injuries, but Elfrid Payton continued his brilliant play of late with 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists on 59.5 percent shooting. Payton, who has averaged 19.2 points, 7.5 assists and 5.3 rebounds over his past six games, accounted for 17 fourth-quarter points with his two baskets, two free throws and four assists that led to three 3-pointers and a Gordon slam dunk.

The Magic are quite familiar with the Heat having lost to them 107-89 in Miami on Tuesday. In that game, Orlando led by as much as 11 points in the second quarter and 10 in the third before coming unglued on both ends of the floor. Ten turnovers in the third and a flurry of points from Wayne Ellington (15 of 18 in the second half) and Josh Richardson (14 of 20 in the fourth quarter) spelled doom for the Magic.

``You’ve definitely got to be tougher than them because they’re a tough team and they play hard,’’ Payton said of the Heat. ``They fight over screens and play hard, gritty stuff like that, and you have to match it. They’re a team that can get hard from three, as we saw the other night, and we’ve got to box out because even the guards are crashing (for offensive rebounds).’’

Orlando hasn’t nabbed consecutive wins since Nov. 8 and 10 when it beat New York at the Amway Center and the Suns in Phoenix. To win consecutively once again, the Magic must find a way to match the desperation of a Miami team out to prove itself following a bad home loss.

``They’re a hard-playing, tough-minded team,’’ Vogel said. ``Ellington really good loose on us, and Richardson did as well in the fourth quarter. They do a good job of making you turn the basketball over, being irritants and getting in your face to get calls and they’re very good with their hands. So, we’ve got to take care of the basketball.’’

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