Orlando Magic at Miami Heat: Game Preview

Terrence Ross
by Dan Savage

MIAMI – The Orlando Magic left New York with plenty to celebrate, but little time to enjoy it.

After earning their first win of the season and securing the first victory for Jamahl Mosley as head coach of the Magic on Sunday, the team quickly hopped on a flight to Miami.

And less than 24 hours after recording that triumph, the Magic (1-2) will go head-to-head with the Heat (1-1) as the Sunshine State rivalry is renewed on Monday at 7:30 p.m. ET.

There are plenty of elements from Orlando’s win in New York that they hope to sneak into their luggage and take to their trip down south.

For starters, the principles that Mosley has been preaching since his arrival of playing with space, pace and the pass on offense and brining a high-energy level defensively finally manifested themselves on the court in regular season action.

“The ball moved sides of the floor (and) guys were trusting the pass,” the 15th head coach in franchise history explained. “These guys did a great job of trusting each other, sharing the basketball, and playing for one another, which is what they’ve been trying to do.”

It also helped that the team got monster performances from Cole Anthony and Terrence Ross.

Anthony, a 6-foot-3 combo guard, set the tone out of the gate, scoring 15 of his team-high 29 points in the first quarter and knocking down four of his five triples in the opening frame. He finished the night with a career-high 16 rebounds and eight assists as he joined Steph Curry, James Harden, Luka Doncic, Russell Westbrook, and Manu Ginobili as the only guards in NBA history with a 25/15/5 and 5-plus threes stat line (per StatMuse).

“They came to our home arena and beat us in that game,” said Anthony, whose mother – along with a number of friends and family – was in attendance on Sunday. “We had to come back and retaliate. We’re not just going to keel over and let them do the same thing again. I’m super happy how the team responded. Once again, shout out to Mose getting his first win.”

While Anthony opened the flood gates for the offense, Ross sealed the deal. Known as the ‘Human Torch’ for his ability to catch fire in an instant, Ross lived up to his superhero moniker. Orlando’s sensational sixth man erupted for all 22 of his points in the fourth quarter, the most ever by a Magic player in a final frame, thus sealing the team’s 110-104 victory.

“(I’m) just playing the game and letting it come to me,” said Ross, whose ability to keep the defense off balance earned him nine free throw attempts. “(I’m) trying to make the right decisions, trying to get everybody to kind of play together more and kind of play as a unit. In that first half, we were trying to get the ball to move and in that second half, I just had more opportunities to score and shoot. I just let it come to me.”

Now, the Magic will look to replicate that performance on the second night of a back-to-back against a Heat team with championship aspirations.

“We showed ourselves, showed the coaching staff, showed everyone how we can be a pretty good team,” Anthony said. “It’s not easy. That game (against the Knicks) was not easy at all. We’ve kind of shown a level that we can play. So now, it’s just a matter of maintaining that level and then, not just maintaining, (but) building off of that.”

QUOTE TO NOTE: “It was a good scene in the locker room. The guys were celebrating very heavily. I was so happy for them. And I also just changed my shirt (because it was drenched from the celebration).” – Mosley on the team’s locker room celebration after earning his first win as Orlando’s head coach. You can watch the behind-the-scenes footage here:

IN AND OUT: Gary Harris (right hamstring; injury maintenance) is questionable, while Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle), Markelle Fultz (left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee), E’Twaun Moore (left knee sprain) and Chuma Okeke (right hip; bone bruise) all remain out.

For Miami, Kyle Lowry (sprained left ankle) is questionable, while Victor Oladipo (right knee) is out.

RIVALS REPORT: In this edition of our Rivals Report series, we’re joined by special guest, Heat.com beat writer Couper Moorhead, who’s covered the team for the past 11 seasons. He was generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions about the Heat.

Savage: “I know he didn’t play in the Heat’s last game against the Pacers, but what has the Kyle Lowry addition meant to this team and what are they expecting out of him this season?”

Moorhead: “Kyle’s been pretty much everything as advertised. His defense is obviously invaluable to us. Just having a guy who can both fight through screens and can switch just about anything. He’s not exactly the kind of guy you want to be backing down in the post. In years past, we’ve always had issues with lineups where there would be spots on the floor you had to compensate for. So, Bam (Adebayo) and Jimmy (Butler) were having to do a lot on defense. Not just guarding their own guy but helping other spots on the floor. Now, you add Lowry and a guy like P.J. Tucker and the defense kind of coalesces and makes a lot more sense with who’s on the floor. It also takes a lot of pressure off guys like Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, so they can fill their roles as shooters and spacers and scorers.

But really the biggest difference with Lowry is on the offensive end. What we’ve seen so far, he’s pushing the pace, his hit-aheads in transition have been outstanding. The pattern the last few years for the Heat is they start off the year trying to push pace but then the turnovers go up and it would become clear that the personnel wasn’t quite there to be a running team. Now, there’s a little bit of a different feel. It looks like the pace with Lowry on the floor will be able to be sustained a little bit more throughout the year. They might not be a top-five, top-ten team in pace, but they could be around league average at least with Lowry creating some easy buckets. And then, just in the offense, he’s transforming what Jimmy and Bam have to do. The past couple of years those two have been relied upon very heavily for facilitating, for playmaking, (and) for creating shots for all the shooters on the team (and) all the lob threats the team had. Now with Lowry being able to run the offense, you can get Bam and Jimmy into more post-up situations. You’ve seen the team’s post-ups have gone up already including postseason numbers. So, Lowry puts everybody in their place. The pieces on offense all fall around in, in and around him and a guy like Bam or Jimmy can really focus on getting to their scoring spots rather than having to think ‘ok, I’ve got to dribble up the floor and then find a guy for a handoff.’ Or ‘I’ve got to run pick-and-roll here.’

So, on both ends Lowry’s biggest impact is making life easier and making life different for both Bam and Jimmy. And it just makes the team make a lot more sense as a whole.”

Savage: “When you look at Tyler Herro – at least from what we’ve seen in the preseason and the start to the regular season – he looks a lot more like what people expected him to look like last season. What have you seen from him over the course of training camp, the preseason and the start of the regular season?”

Moorhead: “I think it’s funny with Tyler because there’s this narrative that he had a bad year last year. I don’t think he really did. He just had a year that didn’t live up to certain expectations. But if you look at his career as a whole and you consider the pandemic break between that regular season and the bubble and if you think about it as that was Tyler’s first real offseason, then his whole career actually makes much more sense. Because he came into the bubble with an added skillset. He was finishing around the rim better there (and) he was playmaking better there in the bubble. And then, they really didn’t have an offseason after that point between the Finals and when the season started back up (last) December. So, he really didn’t have a sophomore slump, it’s just that his freshman to sophomore improvement happened earlier because of the way the seasons were broken up. And then last year, he definitely seemed to suffer from a little bit of a shake in his confidence. That might not be the perfect descriptor for it, but certainly some of the shots that he used to take like his step-backs, his really quick pullups, he’s always had great footwork, but those shots just weren’t falling. They didn’t quite look like they were coming off his hands as well. And that could have been just some fatigue related as well to the short turnaround.

But this year, he’s kind of back. He’s got his mojo back. He’s been put into the sixth man role. I think (head coach Erik) Spoelstra is going to keep him there for most of the season if possible. And his goal is just ‘hey, the ball is in your hands, we need some shot creation, go for it.’ (On Saturday) against Indy with Lowry out, the team needed some shot creation. Tyler scored thirty points, which is great, but almost more importantly he put up twenty-eight shots. You’re not going to need him to take twenty-eight shots every game, but just the fact that he can create twenty-eight shots for himself. A lot of that was with the ball in his hands. It speaks to the player he’s becoming. That’s what I think is happening with Tyler. He’s becoming who he’s going to be in this league for a long time. That’s not to say he doesn’t have more upside from here, but in this sixth man scoring role, he looks like he’s just becoming so much more comfortable than he ever was in the first two years. The ball is in his hands more. He’s not relying on other people to create catch-and-shoots and spot-ups for him. He’s just playing free. He looks great and he’s even making some passes that I don’t know if we saw him make the first two years. So, his game is expanding, and I think – like a lot of third-year players – the game has slowed down for him. And he’s really starting to figure out what role he’s going to carve out in this league for ten-plus years.”

Savage: “For Magic fans, who may not watch the Heat as closely, what’s one other thing that they should be paying attention to when the Magic come to town on Monday night?”

Moorhead: “I would just keep an eye on Bam. I mentioned it earlier with what Lowry is doing, but Bam every single season feels like he takes at least a mini leap. There’s always been a narrative with him that he needs to be more aggressive. Sometimes he’s said that. Sometimes his teammates have said that they want him to be more aggressive. Jimmy kind of famously said last year, ‘Bam go.’ Like Bam, go score. It wasn’t always fair to Bam because he was often put in that faciliatory position where the team really needed him to create for everybody else. But now you can tell, Bam is catching the ball in the post, turning his head, looking straight at the basket, and he’s going. The other night against Indy, he started off taking five, six, seven shots in the first eight minutes or so. Then, it slowed off a bit from there as the team’s offense kind of got a little jumbled up, again without Lowry. But for the most part, Bam’s mindset as a scorer has looked very different. He looks like the kind of a guy who’s going to become a twenty, twenty-one, or twenty-two points and ten (rebounds) a night kind of guy. So, Magic fans might see a little bit of a different Bam. It still remains to be seen what kind of night-to-night thing that’s going to look like. The Magic play a little bit bigger at times than some teams, so we’ll see if that changes what his role is on offense. But I think Bam’s taken another mini leap, and similar to Tyler, he’s carving out a bit of a new role for himself.

On top of that, it’s interesting to see how the Heat’s depth plays out. I know some of their bench guys aren’t as well known as others, but you’ve got a guy like Max Strus, who I think is really going to make a name for himself this year as a really solid seventh, eighth man on the bench. He’s a shooter. He can defend. He’s really a be-an-All-Star-in-your-role player. So, keep an eye on Strus as well.”


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