|2008/2009 NBA Regular Season
|January 2nd, 2009
Ah yes, tonight's game sees the Orlando Magic face off against their interstate/divisional rival, the Miami Heat. Or as I like to call it .. Stan Van Gundy vs. the Miami Heat: Episode V.
We all know the story .. head coach mysteriously gets run out resigns from former team, gets replaced by mentor .. who proceeds to win NBA Title, said head coach disappears from map, roughly 1.5 years later, said head coach reappears, gets offered job with new team after new team is betrayed by college coach during hiring process, said head coach accepts job, former team is mad, forces new team to pay ransom for snagging their old coach, etc.
Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy has said countless times that playing the Miami Heat is just another game .. but everyone knows, including the Magic players, that he delights in beating his former team.
Last season, defeating the Heat wasn't too difficult. Miami was the worst team in the NBA last year and Dwyane Wade missed approximately one-third of the season due to injuries. Although Wade was present for two of the four games versus Orlando, the result was still the same for his squad - a loss.
This season, things are different. The Heat, led by a rookie head coach (Erik Spoelstra) and a rejuvenated Dwyane Wade, are in the thick of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. Thismatchup is important for the Magic because givenwhere each team sits in the standings, Orlando(3rd)vs. Miami (6th) could be a possible playoff match-up.
Ira Winderman from the Sun-Sentinel provides his logic behind this assumption ..
Click after the jump to see what he says.
1. The Celtics and Cavaliers appear to be the class of the East, and therefore the top two seeds in the conference.
2. The Magic will fall just short of those two, but clearly rates above anyone else in the East, thereby giving Orlando the No. 3 playoff seed.
3. Atlanta looks awfully good lately and Detroit has tons of playoff pedigree, so it wouldn't be a stretch to put those two at Nos. 4 and 5 in the East, as first-round opponents.
4. The Heat currently stands No. 6 in the East, and there doesn't appear to be a team poised to blow past (although perhaps Philly gets its act together). Otherwise, No. 6 plays No. 3 in the first round.
Onto the game ..
Although the Heat have improved this year, the Magic should have the advantage (especially with regards to bench play). The Big Three of Turkoglu/Lewis/Howard should present problems for a smaller Miami frontcourt, who's tallest man is 6'9'' (center Joel Anthony). The Heat's SF Shawn Marion, despite losing a step, is still an above-average defender so he should hold his own against Turk, but both PF Udonis Haslem and C Anthony may have some issues defensively .. Lewis' quickness and perimeter-oriented game should bother Haslem while Howard > Anthony. Don't be surprised if Marion switches off between Turk & Sweet Lew during the game.
Wade alone provides Miami with the advantage in the battle of the backcourts. I pity Keith Bogans, Courtney Lee, and (gulp) J.J. Redick [I doubt he plays but never know]. Wade should have a field day (doesn't he always?). The other matchup is PG Mario Chalmers vs. PG Jameer Nelson, which should be interesting to watch. Super Mario has developed a niche immediately on the defensive end as a rookie and has admitted he prefers playing defense more than scoring (it shows). It's vital that Nelson takes care of the ball because Chalmers is currently 5th in the NBA in steals (2.0). If Nelson does that, he should be okay but rest assured .. Chalmers is an excellent defender and will make Nelson work for his points.
Tip-off is at 7:05 on FSN Florida. Thanks to the recent news that Fox Cable Networks and Bright House Networks have reached an agreement, FSN Florida can now be viewed in the standard cable lineup for Central Florida residents. Finally, no more blackouts.
Enjoy the game. Let's see if the Magic can make it 2 wins in a row.