Tonight sees our Orlando Magic hitting the road the for the first of 4 games by taking on the Miami Heat. The game has a U.K. tip time of 12:30am 🇬🇧 It will as always be available live & on demand via the NBA League Pass.
The Playoff Picture
Looking at the playoff picture sees our current position changed, as we drop to the 8th seed position. We have 21 games to play between now & the end of the regular season on April 15th. Our record is standing at 27 & 34 after losing our last two games. The Nets have broken their losing streak after a brilliant come back win last night in Boston, moving their record to 27 & 33 record & still having played a game less than ourselves.
We are 5 wins ahead of the Washington Wizards who remain in 9th, they’ve played 1 game less than ourselves with a 22 & 38 record. The Charlotte Hornets (21 & 40) & Chicago Bulls (21 & 40) are sat at 10th & 11th. We do hold the tiebreaker over all four teams; the Nets (2-0), the Wizards (4 & 0), the Hornets (2-0) & the Bulls (1-0).
If we finish in the 7th seed spot again it could set up a repeat of last season’s first round matchup against the Toronto Raptors (43-18). The Boston Celtics (41-19) have dropped their last two games & remain 3rd but are still fighting for that second seeding. The Bucks (52 & 9) lead the East easily, having already assured themselves of postseason qualification & are looking strong to win the East & await the 8th seed.
The Seeding Race
Tonight sees a full slate of games in the race for 7th & 8th. Besides ourselves being in Miami the Nets are on a back-to-back with a home game against Memphis, Washington are in Portland & Chicago are in Minnesota. I feel any hope of taking 6th is incredibly remote with both Indiana & Philadelphia being 10 wins ahead of us. We still have work to do but still looking good for a second season running of making the first round.
We are firmly locked in a battle with the Nets, we face them twice more by the season end, being at Brooklyn on March 23rd & home on March 27th when Orlando Magic UK’s Mikey & Geraint will be in the Amway!
Looking at tonight’s game & we have to be honest & say that this one is a big ask, the Heat are playing some very good basketball.
Our home form is currently at 16 & 15, which as with the road record still needs improvement, the road record being 11 wins & 19 losses. Across our last 10 games we have a 5 & 5 record but even in defeat it feels like there is a momentum building around the team.
Looking back at our last game & the home court defeat to Portland I felt it was some of the poorest basketball we have played in some time. We lacked energy, ball movement & the defence was poor all night. We missed Aaron Gordon badly. The team have to move on from that performance which saw us give up a season high 69 points in the first half.
Once again the Portland game evidenced that as a team we need to get off to a better start than of late. We have seen the second unit dragging us back into games & it is something we can’t keep doing. The Magic are 14 & 10 when they lead after the first quarter, 11 & 22 when trailing. We remain 22 & 2 when we lead or are level entering the 4th quarter. We are also 18 & 1 when we score at least 110 points, hit 115+ points & we have won all 14 games, score 120 or more & we’ve taken all 9 games.
Offence & Defence
In the NBA offensive rankings we stayed 25th with both our rating staying at 107 & average scoring 105.3 points per game (once again the 29th worst record in the NBA for ppg). Our defensive ranking dropped further to 9th, rating 108.7 whilst allowing 106.9 points per game. The opponents points per game conceded is a mark of our defensive struggles, which up until very recently was the best in the NBA & has now slipped to the 3rd best record.
Magic Injury Report & Starting Lineup
Our injury report is not happy reading as Aaron Gordon (14.4 ppg) (knee) & Gary Clark (3.5 ppg) (knee) are both questionable for tonight being a game time decision but Coach Clifford has said that AG should be cleared to play. Both Jonathan Isaac (12 ppg) (severe left knee strain & bone contusion) & Al-Farouq Aminu (4.3 ppg) (torn meniscus) being out for the rest of the season.
Our starting lineup is likely to be our favoured one at this time of Evan Fournier (18.9 ppg), Nikola Vucevic (19.3 ppg), Markelle Fultz (11.7 ppg), Aaron Gordon (14.4 ppg) & James Ennis (6.1 ppg) but with the uncertainty about AG we could see Khem Birch (3.9 ppg) or Wes Iwundu (5.1 ppg) come in.
From the bench we likely have DJ Augustin (10.1 ppg), Michael Carter-Williams (6.3 ppg), Terence Ross (14.2 ppg) & Mo Bamba (5.7 ppg) in the 9 man rotation, so again Wes Iwundu (5.1 ppg), Khem Birch (3.9 ppg) & Gary Clark (3.5 ppg) may not feature. We can if needed also call on BJ Johnson (1.6 ppg), Vic Law (0 ppg) & Melvin Frazier Jr (1.2 ppg) from the Lakeland Magic though I don’t believe they have travelled to Miami.
What Are We Wearing?
The Orlando Magic PR have tweeted out that we wear the white Association uniform tonight.
Turning to our opponents & the Miami Heat are currently 4th in the East with a 39 & 22 record. They have won 26 of their 30 home court games & across all games have won 5 of their last 10. The Heat pulled out a superb result when they last played, beating the Bucks in Miami on Monday by 89-105. Miami rank offensively 7th in the NBA with a rating of 112.9 & scoring 112.7 points per game. Defensively their rating of 109.4 is 11th, allowing opponents an average of 109.2 points per game.
The Heat do have some injury issues with Tyler Herro (13.1 ppg) (ankle), Meyers Leonard (6.1 ppg) (ankle) & Kyle Alexander (0 ppg) (knee) all being out tonight.
That leaves a starting lineup of Jimmy Butler (20.5 ppg), Bam Adebayo (16.2 ppg), Duncan Robinson (12.7 ppg), Kendrick Nunn (15.8 ppg) & Derrick Jones Jr (8.7 ppg). From the bench they can bring Jae Crowder (10.7 ppg), Goran Dragic (16.3 ppg), Andre Iguodala (4.2 ppg), Kelly Olynyk (7.9 ppg), Soloman Hill (5.5 ppg). Udonis Haslem (1.7 ppg), Gabe Vincent (2.4 ppg), Chris Silva (3 ppg) & KZ Okpala (1.4 ppg).
Let’s be honest, they have a lot of quality to draw from.
We have met our State, Division & Conference rivals 3 times this season, being down 1-2. On January 4th in the Amway we won 85-105, holding them to 6 points in the 4th quarter. On January 27th we lost in Miami 92-113 & then on February 1st in the Amway the Heat took the W by 89-102. Last season we won the series by 3 & 1. The all time head-to-head record in the 122 regular season games played sees the Magic behind by 55-67. In the playoffs we have met over 5 games in 1997, losing 3-2.
Keys To The Game
Tonight is a difficult game & one that should we win would surprise a lot of people. I don’t write us off, though I’m realistic about our chances.
Miami are playing good basketball & have a great squad to do it with. They can hit the 3 & they can play in the paint. Pat Riley has yet again built a solid & well balanced roster. He has not been afraid to make changes during the mid season. Eric Spoelstra has them playing as a team. Even though they are rivals you have to applaud them for being well managed & coached.
For us to take a win our defence needs to be better to contain their multiple threats & that will not be easy. I have already mentioned our defensive issues & the need for a good first quarter. We ideally want to go into the 4th quarter level or with a lead at which point we can feel hopeful. We need to see the ball movement return & that comes from having Markelle on the court & with the ball in his hands. That movement can get us good looks at which point we have to hope the shots drop. Continuing to recognise who has the “hot hand” at any time & feed them opportunities is a must.
Post Dunk Contest
After the All Star Weekend Dunk Contest it will be interesting to see how both Gordon & Jones react in this game. I don’t believe it will be a distraction to Aaron but I’m convinced given the opportunity he’d love to put on a show. I hope AG can help us get the win & if it includes a highlight reel of dunking on & blocking Jones then that will be a bonus.
This is one we want Magic fans!
WE BELIEVE IN OUR TEAM!
LET’S GO MAGIC