This evening at Amway Arena, the Orlando Magic will try to defeat the Miami Heat for the first time in three tries. Miami and lottery-bound Washington are the only Eastern teams against which the Magic have failed to record a victory this season. The Heat will be without All-Star shooting guard Dwyane Wade, which would help any opponent, but especially Orlando: Wade averages 30.1 points per game against the Magic in his career, his highest figure against any team, and has cracked 40 points against them 3 times. Few players have individually tormented the Magic as much as Wade has, though curiously the Heat are just 2-6 when he scores 30-plus points against Orlando, and 9-2 when he scores less than 30 points. In any case, Miami presents some challenges to Orlando even without Wade. And as the Magic have learned in losses to New Orleans (Chris Paul), Indiana (Danny Granger), Portland (Brandon Roy), Detroit (Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince), and Boston (Paul Pierce), teams often bring stronger efforts when their best players sit out.
|2009/2010 NBA Season|
|February 28th, 2010|
|Sun Sports / ESPN|
|Rafer Alston||PG||Jameer Nelson|
|Daequan Cook||SG||Vince Carter|
|Quentin Richardson||SF||Matt Barnes|
|Michael Beasley||PF||Rashard Lewis|
|Jermaine O'Neal||C||Dwight Howard|
|November 25th: Heat 99, Magic 98|
|December 17th: Heat 104, Magic 86|
One trend really sticks out when examining how these teams have fared lately: three-point shooting. Heat opponents have shot an icy 28-of-102 (27.5%) from beyond the arc since the All-Star break, although some of that is due to the competition they've faced. Philadelphia, New Jersey, Memphis, and Minnesota all rank in the bottom third of the league in three-point accuracy, but still, a 27.5% figure allowed is impressive.
And here's where worry might set in for Orlando, as it's shot an almost-as-chilly 38-of-132 (28.8%) on its treys over the same span. The Magic have had great success on two-pointers, thanks in large part to Dwight Howard inside, with a 57.7% mark on those shots. In Jermaine O'Neal, Joel Anthony, and Jamaal Magloire, Miami has the personnel to play Howard one-on-one in order to limit the Magic's three-point chances. But if Howard continues to dominate as he has over the last month-plus, the Heat will have to double-team him and take their chances that the Magic will continue their cold streak from the outside. That's a risky proposition. One gets the feeling that Orlando is simply "due" to have a hot shooting night from distance. Failing that, the Magic can continue running pick-and-rolls with Howard and either Vince Carter or Jameer Nelson, or the effective yet scarcely-used Nelson/Carter version. But they must use caution: Miami is among the league leaders in forcing turnovers due to its ball-hawking defensive scheme. They'll exploit the same types of sloppy passes that New Orleans did on Friday night.
Offensively, Miami is nothing to write home about apart from Wade. Second-year forward Michael Beasley has taken on more responsibility with Wade out, but with mixed results. He's 26-of-68 from the floor for 66 points, with 30 of those points coming against the sieve-like Grizzlies. Ira Winderman attributes much of that inefficiency to shot selection, as Beasley has taken to launching from the perimeter rather than taking the ball to the basket. O'Neal and three-point specialist Daequan Cook (shooting 31.5% from the outside this season) are also getting more opportunities on offense.