The Orlando Magic host the Miami Heat for the final time this season tonight, setting the stage for next month's finale in Miami. Since losing to Orlando in November, Miami's won 26 of its last 33 games, while the Magic have reshaped their roster with two separate trades; Brian Windhorst has more on the teams' respective changes here. Everyone, even coach Stan Van Gundy, is excited for this game, as Zach McCann reports Van Gundy has called a team meeting prior to every Heat matchup this season.
Tonight, we'll learn how the Magic will cope with the loss of power forward Brandon Bass, who's likely to sit out through the All-Star Break due to a sprained left ankle. Bass put up 18 points and 6 rebounds in that November victory, benefitting from the open jump-shot looks the Heat conceded him in order to address the Magic's other offensive options. We'll see if Ryan Anderson can be similarly productive in Bass' stead, but remember, when a key player is hurt, his backup is rarely the problem; it's the backup's backup, and right now we're not even sure who that is. Veteran big man Malik Allen might try to play tonight, spelling Anderson for a few moments. Earl Clark might get a chance, too.
From a playoff-preview angle, I'm more interested to see if either team goes without a traditional point guard for long stretches. When reserve swingman Mike Miller enters for Miami, he typically replaces the Heat's nominal point guard, making the 6-foot-4 Dwyane Wade the smallest player out there. He, Miller, and LeBron James can all handle the ball, which makes for a matchup nightmare. McCann doesn't think Orlando can afford to play its starting point guard, Jameer Nelson, against Miami if coach Erik Spoelstra goes with that look due to Nelson's lack of size; Tom Haberstroh and Kevin Arnovitz of the Heat Index think Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu can fill in for Nelson if needed here.
The Magic will wear their black alternate uniforms, Gina Marie Incandela will sing the National Anthem, and Quick Change will perform at halftime. That's how big this game is. Discuss it here.
|2010/2011 NBA Season
|34-14 (16-9 road)
|31-18 (18-6 home)
|February 3rd, 2011
|October 29th: Heat 96, Magic 70
|November 24th: Magic 104, Heat 95
|2010/11 Advanced Stats