Magic Look For Another Road Win, Visit Heat Tonight

by John Denton

MIAMI – Technically, the Orlando Magic’s lengthy road trip came to an end over the weekend when the team returned home for a weekend of rest and practice.

In actuality, however, the Magic’s road run continues with another game in a hostile venue tonight before finally returning to the Amway Center on Wednesday. First, the Magic (11-12) want to beat the Heat (9-13) tonight in South Florida and even up their record at 3-3 on this extended road run. Tipoff is just after 7:30 p.m. (TV: Fox Sports Florida).

Orlando will be in action for the first time since beating the Suns 99-85 in Phoenix on Friday. That victory, combined with one in Los Angeles against LeBron James and the Lakers, allowed the Magic to close the Western Conference portion of their trip at 2-3. Orlando got thumped by Denver in the trip opener and lost in heartbreaking fashion to Golden State and Portland despite holding double-digit leads in the second half of both of those games.

Win tonight and Orlando could move to 3-3 during one of its longest stretches of the season without a game at home.

``We went home for a little bit, but it’s not even like we were there long. We came in at 4 (a.m. on Saturday) and then we had one day, and we were back on the road again (on Monday),’’ Magic standout center Nikola Vucevic said. ``Luckily, it was only like a 30-minute flight (to Miami) and not too far. It doesn’t feel like we’ve been home much and after (four days back in Orlando later this week) we go on the road for another week or so. But this is part of life in the NBA season … and we get used to it.’’

The Magic have been a strong team on the road all season, winning five times away from home and six times at the Amway Center. Orlando has already notched impressive road victories in Boston, San Antonio, Los Angeles (Lakers), New York (Knicks) and Phoenix. Toronto (10), Boston (seven) and Indiana (seven) are the only teams in the East with more road wins than the Magic.

``You’ve got to come out and win on the road if you want to be a playoff team,’’ Magic forward Aaron Gordon said. ``(The road success) means we know we’ve got it and we have the capability. It’s just a matter of doing it every night if we want to be good.’’

In the Heat, the Magic will be facing a short-handed, but resilient rival. Standout guard Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters have already been ruled out for the game, while Rodney McGruder and Tyler Johnson are questionable to play.

Those injuries didn’t keep the Heat from beating the Utah Jazz on Sunday night. Miami shot just 39.6 percent from the floor, but it still won behind 23 points and 20 rebounds from center Hassan Whiteside. It was the 11th20-point, 20-rebound game of his career.

``When they play pick-and-roll and he’s rolling to the basket, it’s always a challenge with him because either the guard finishes or it’s a lob (to Whiteside),’’ Vucevic said. ``So that’s a very tricky thing to defense. It puts you in a tough spot and obviously his rebounding has been a huge part of what he’s doing. And his defensive presence is good around the paint. We’ve battled a lot through the years and it’s always fun to play against him.’’

Miami legend Dwyane Wade, who is in the midst of what he is saying will be his final NBA season, scored 15 points off the bench despite making just four of 15 shots. He also had eight assists and the Heat were a plus-21 while the three-time champion guard was on the floor for 30 minutes.

Orlando’s top reserve, Terrence Ross, is coming off a strong performance himself. He had 21 points and two 3-pointers by battering Phoenix’s defense with a second-quarter barrage and a flurry of six consecutive points in the fourth period to seal the victory.
Ross has 30 20-point games in his NBA career. However, he’s had 20-point outputs in consecutive games just five times. Tonight, he will be shooting for a sixth as the Magic hope to beat the Heat for a second time this season.

The Magic and Heat opened the season against one another at the Amway Center for a third consecutive season. And for a second straight year, the Magic won by building a significant lead and making enough plays in the fourth quarter. The Magic won 104-101 behind 26 points and a career-best-tying 16 rebounds from Gordon. That night, Orlando’s defense limited Miami to 39.2 percent shooting and forced 17 Miami turnovers.

``We’re running a lot of the same stuff and so are they, but they’re a much different team now and so are we,’’ Magic coach Steve Clifford said. ``To me, they’re so difficult to play against because they have a way to play and great purpose of play. They play with physicality and they’re on the attack on both ends of the floor. So, you’ve got to be into the details and you’ve got to have great intensity.’’

Gordon missed 1 ½ games last week with lower back tightness, but he has recovered from that injury and should be good to go tonight versus the Heat. He had 18 points, six rebounds and three assists in 34 minutes on Friday in Phoenix.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.