Here we go Magic fans, it is opening night against Miami for Orlando in the Amway. Tonight the Magic take on the Heat, tipping off at 12am midnight UK time.
To watch the game live or on demand here in the UK you will need an active NBA League Pass subscription.
THE MAGIC PRESEASON
Preseason has seen the Magic play four games:
11/12/2020 – @ Atlanta Hawks – won 116-112
13/12/2020 – @ Atlanta Hawks – lost 107-116
19/12/2020 – Charlotte Hornets – lost 123-115
19/12/2020 – Charlotte Hornets – won 117-120
There have been some good spells, some positives plus the expected negatives and bad periods of play. We have covered these in our linked reviews.
Nikola Vucevic has carried on in the form he showed during the playoffs against Milwaukee. His increased use of the 3 point shot and its effectiveness has made defences have to play him differently.
Markelle Fultz has become a floor general and is ready to take a big step forward this term.
Cole Anthony has finished preseason averaging. This contribution has been a massive boost for the Orlando bench unit, who have been impressive in the preseason.
But tonight it is opening night against Miami for Orlando and the real work starts here!
Looking at tonight’s game we have to be honest and say that any game against Miami is a big task. The Heat proved last season that they are back to being an elite team and will no doubt continue playing quality basketball.
In this short off-season both teams have chosen to go with continuity of squad. Neither team looks that different from last season but we will come to that as we look later at the line ups.
Neither team will benefit more than the other from the viewpoint that continuity will allow for a fast start in the League in such a short preseason.
LOOKING AT THE MAGIC FOR THE OPENING NIGHT AGAINST MIAMI
I would be very surprised if we see much changed from preseason for Orlando.
The Magic will certainly be without Jonathan Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu again. Both are still out indefinitely. James Ennis and Mo Bamba are listed on ESPN as being day-to-day, though it is unlikely they feature tonight.
Mo Bamba has now been cleared to take part in full contact drills but there is still no clear date for his return to game action.
Through preseason Coach Clifford went with the starting line-up of Markelle Fultz, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Dwayne Bacon and Nikola Vucevic.
From the bench will come Cole Anthony, Michael Carter-Williams, Terence Ross, Chum Okeke, Khem Birch and possibly Gary Clark. Two way players Jordan Bone and Karim Mane will also be available.
THE MIAMI HEAT
As part of our preview of the Eastern Conference we looked at Miami. We expect them to comfortably make the postseason and be battling for home court advantage.
As said above, they have continuity. They also bring experience. They play a hard defensive game, work for each other and can blitz teams with their attacking abilities. In Jimmy Butler they have a star, a man who can put the team on his shoulders.
Last season Miami had a record of 44-29, finishing 5th in the Eastern Conference. They lost in the NBA Finals 2-4 to the LA Lakers. They were 7th in offensive rating & 11th in defence.
In the draft they took Precious Achiuwa at No. 20. He is a small/power forward, who during preseason has been able to contribute on both ends of the floor. The other notable additions Avery Bradley and Maurice Harkless have both featured, Harkless in the starting 5. They have also used KZ Okpala who played in the early games last season before injury. He was then assigned to their G League affiliate Sioux Falls Skyforce.
In the offseason Miami lost Jae Crowder, Derrick Jones Jr. and Soloman Hill. Those three all had impact on the Heat last season at times and represent some lost talent.
As I write their projected starting line up is Goran Dragic, Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Maurice Harkless and Bam Adebayo.
From the bench they can bring Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro, Andre Iguodala, KZ Okpala, Meyers Leonard, Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley and Precious Achiuwa.
There only injury issue is to Gabe Vincent, who is day-to-day.
We met our State, Division and Conference rivals 4 times last season, being beaten 1-3. On January 4th 2020 in the Amway Orlando won 85-105, holding the Heat to just 6 points in the 4th quarter. From that point on the results went downhill.
On January 27th the Magic lost in Miami 92-113 and a few days later on February 1st the Heat took the W by 89-102 in the Amway. Finally on March 4th in Miami the Magic tasted another defeat by 113-116. The season score reflects the turnaround in fortunes for each team from the 2018-19 season when Orlando won the series 3-1.
The all time head-to-head record in the 123 regular season games played sees the Magic behind by 55-68.
In the playoffs we have met over 5 games in 1997, losing 3-2.
PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS
Across our recent episodes of Penny For Your Thoughts we have spoken in some detail about this season’s Magic squad, covered every aspect of the preseason and a whole host more!
In the latest episode we have taken a look to the season opening night against Miami.
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THE KEYS TO THE OPENING NIGHT AGAINST MIAMI
Orlando have to find that defensive discipline that went missing after All Star last season. In our preseason games there have been a lot of handling errors, unforced turnovers and fouls. That is not the mark of this ball club under Coach Clifford.
Orlando look better as an offensive unit when they move the ball quickly. Touches in the paint allow for the ball to be passed out for an open 3 as defences collapse.
It would be great to send an early message to our Conference rivals that the Magic are still a team who can mix it with the elite.
Any time we play Miami I say this, it is one game we always love to win Magic fans! And being opening night there is no form to draw from, players are still finding rhythm and fitness. The game is up for grabs and anything could happen.
WE STILL BELIEVE IN OUR TEAM!
LET’S GO MAGIC!