The Orlando Magic got back on the winning track by downing the New Jersey Nets Friday night. They look to make it two straight when they take on the Miami Heat Sunday night. The Heat held off the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, snapping a two-game losing streak and improving their record to 32-11. The Magic enter with a record of 29-16.
Miami’s lone loss in the last two weeks came in Orlando at the hands of the Magic. The Magic defeated the Heat 102-89. The two teams met again on February 19 and the Heat got some revenge, defeating the Magic 90-78. These two teams met again Tuesday and the Magic came away with a 104-98 overtime victory.
The Magic rank 13th in offensive rating (104.9), 11th in defensive rating (102.0) and play at the league’s ffith-slowest pace (89.4). The Heat are first in offensive rating (109.2), fifth in defensive rating (100.5) and play at the league’s 13th-fastest pace (91.9).
Tip-off from American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida is scheduled for 7:00 pm EST and will be shown locally on FS Florida and nationally on ESPN.
As always, if you can’t watch the game, you can listen on the radio – in English on AM 580 WDBO and FM 96.5 and in Spanish on AM 1270 WRLZ.
The officials for tonight’s game are Dan Crawford, Eric Lewis and Violet Palmer.
The Line: Miami – 8.5 (188.5)
Center Eddy Curry is questionable (personal reasons) while wing Mike Miller is out (sprained left ankle).
The Magic have a pretty good recipe for defeating the Heat and have won two of three meetings this season (both wins were in Orlando with the loss coming in Miami).
The primary reason the Magic are able to compete with the Heat is the same reason the Magic can play with anyone – they have the best big man in the game in Dwight Howard. In Orlando’s two wins over Miami, Howard has averaged 24.5 points and 24.5 rebounds. In their loss, Howard had just 12 points and 15 rebounds. Joel Anthony is serviceable at center but the Heat have no one who can match up with Howard – he has to be great for the Magic to beat the Heat.
The Heat have also had some point guard issues. Give Mario Chalmers his due – he’s been lights out shooting the ball this season, but if Magic point guard Jameer Nelson is on – and he has been lately – Nelson can take advantage of that matchup. Nelson had his best game of the season in a win over the Heat Tuesday. He scored 25 points and the Heat were even forced to use LeBron James against him down the stretch.
Defensively, the Heat like to clog the middle – especially against Howard – and quickly close out on shooters. That strategy sometimes gets them into trouble against good three-point shooting teams and with Orlando’s 4-out/1-in set with their stretch four, Ryan Anderson, they can beat the Heat from beyond the arc (The Magic hit 17 three-pointers in their first meeting with the Heat, a 102-89 victory).
It also doesn’t hurt that James, the league’s best player and clear MVP front runner, is shooting 42.9% from the field against the Magic (He’s shooting 54.8% from the field on the season). The Magic will have to exploit all their mismatches, especially in a playoff series, because you know James’s low numbers won’t stay low for long.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, ESPN Florida’s Magic Insider (http://ESPNFlorida.com) and is the co-host of the ESPNFlorida.com Insiders Show Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him onTwitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here)
Topics: Chris Bosh, Chris Duhon, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Erik Spoelstra, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu, Ish Smith, J.j. Redick, Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Larry Hughes, LeBron James, Miami Heat, Mike Miller, Norris Cole, Orlando Magic, Otis Smith, Pat Riley, Quentin Richardson, Ryan Anderson, Shane Battier, Stan Van Gundy, Udonis Haslem, Von Wafer