Tuesday morning, the Orlando Magic continued their preparation for Wednesday's game against the Miami Heat, convening at Amway Center for another practice session. Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said that Tobias Harris and Glen Davis "fared well" in Monday's session, and he would not rule out the possibility of their playing Wednesday.
Here's a look at some stories that developed Tuesday.
Harris and Davis return
At 4-6, Orlando has the East's seventh-best record despite the season-long absences of Harris and Davis, two of their best players. Harris suffered a high-ankle sprain in the preseason, while Davis hasn't played since January 30th due to a fractured fifth metatarsal in his left foot.
"Glen and Tobias fared well," Vaughn said. "We gave them more than we did the last time we got the chance to go up and down and all went well."
It's possible, but unlikely, that the pair could play Wednesday. Vaughn would not officially rule them out, saying instead the team will re-assess them "hour by hour, day by day" until they're ready to return to game action.
Davis relished his return to the court.
"Basketball is something I love," he said. "I've been doing it all my life so it's nothing unfamiliar. You might have a little rust, but you love the game with a passion and it's always gonna be there."
Even something as simple as setting a screen felt good for Davis. "Setting those screens, feeling that contact ... I haven't felt that contact in a while so it felt good," Davis said. "I'm just happy I'm back on the court."
Harris said Monday's practice was "a step in the right direction for me just to continue to get that feel and see how my ankle feels off that." However, he wants to avoid returning before he is ready.
"It wouldn't be smart to just jump right back out there on the floor because I'm a player that feeds off of working as hard as I can on the floor [and] bringing a lot of energy," Harris said. The former Tennessee Volunteer hopes that, when he is cleared for game action, it will be without any sort of minutes restrictions.
Vaughn made plain the challenges the Heat present to their opponents.
"They can shoot the three, which makes them very tough to guard, and [they have] the ability to get to the rim, and one of the best players in basketball kind of orchestrating that," Vaughn said.
Through Monday, Miami ranked second in the league in three-point shooting, converting 43.8 percent of their triple tries. And at 66.2 percent, it's also the league's second-best team in accuracy at the restricted area, according to NBA.com/stats.
Against Miami, Vaughn wants his team to limit turnovers, as the Heat are "the best, in my opinion, at converting turnovers and making those easy points for them." The Magic also "have to put bodies in front of LeBron [James] and also contest threes," according to their coach.
Indeed, the defending champions are formidable foes, but the book on them is clear at this point. Vaughn put it best when he said it "sounds simple as far as game-planning is concerned, but [is] very difficult to manage."
Magic guard Victor Oladipo, who committed nine turnovers in Saturday's loss to the Dallas Mavericks, knows that the Heat's aggressive perimeter defenders will try to force him to get sloppy.
"They're gonna try to turn me over and speed me up," the rookie said. "Just try to do whatever it takes for me to panic. So I'm gonna have to do a great job of not doing that." He added that Miami's hard shows and traps in pick-and-roll coverage will challenge him.
Magic center Nikola Vucevic emphasized the importance of running back on defense in order to prevent easy Miami points, echoing his coach's remarks regarding the Heat's transition offense. Offensively, the third-year center said the Magic "have to be patient" against the Heat's "active" defense.
Vucevic knows what it takes to be successful against Miami. He averaged 21.7 points and 21 rebounds, shooting 63 percent from the floor, against the Heat in his first season in pinstripes because, according to Vaughn, he has "matchup" advantages over them. Vucevic himself attributes his success to Miami's defensive style.
"The way they defend, I was able to get up a little and my team was able to find me," Vucevic said. "I was just being aggressive."
Orlando's situation with Harris and Davis is unusual because both players are key cogs, and yet neither has played together. The Magic acquired Harris a few weeks after Davis underwent the first of two surgeries to repair the bone in his left foot.
Harris said playing alongside Davis will be "an adjustment" for him, but said that his role is the same no matter alongside whom he plays.
"My role is to go out there and play as hard as I can each and every night," Harris said. "Bring energy to the team, bring a scoring threat." He thinks his ability to create mismatches on offense "will help us out a lot."
Having to adjust to a new teammate is nothing new for Davis.
"I'm a guy that can adapt," Davis said. "Every team I've been on, I've had to adapt to the players around me and just make due. And that's what I'mma continue to do."
The Magic big man said he can help get Harris open, and Harris can create mismatches. In that way, the two "can need each other" in order to thrive, according to Davis.