MIAMI - Entering Tuesday’s action, Josh Richardson had scored in double figures in all but one game this season. Against the Magic, the 6-foot-6 de facto point guard for the Goran Dragic-less Heat had his worst performance of the year, scoring a season-low six points on 2-of-14 shooting from the field.
Hassan Whiteside was dominant inside to start the game, making his first five shots and scoring 10 points in the first quarter. He would finish with just 12 points, though, and didn’t play at all in the fourth after not being much of a factor in the prior period.
Normally a team that lives at the free throw line, Miami attempted just five foul shots, connecting on a franchise-low two of them.
The Heat also depend on paint touches to generate offense. They rely on driving and kicking as a way to increase open 3-point looks. That didn’t come easy on Tuesday, as Miami shot just 34 percent from downtown.
Some might say it was just an off night for the Heat. But probably, the Magic’s stingy defense had a lot to do with Miami struggling in nearly every offensive category.
Steve Clifford and his players have said throughout the early portion of the year that finishing the season in the top 10 in defense is a goal. The way they’ve played on that side of the floor recently suggests this is definitely attainable.
Over the last five games, the Magic have the eighth best defensive rating. Their last three opponents – the Blazers, Suns and Heat – each shot under 44 percent from the floor against them.
The big test will come on Wednesday when Orlando hosts Denver, one of the hottest teams in the league. The Nuggets rank ninth in offensive rating.
Until then, check out this block from Jonathan Isaac from Tuesday’s win: