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Magic vs. Heat preview: A crucial pre-Christmas match-up against surging Heat

The Heat, winners of four straight, come to town for what will likely be Dwyane Wade’s final game in Orlando

NBA: Orlando Magic at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The hope for the Magic, in the baby-step process of their rebuild, was to be playing meaningful basketball after Christmas. Something that hasn’t happened often in Orlando in recent years.

Having now lost five of their last seven, with their two wins coming in ugly performances south of the border, the Magic are in dire need of a victory at home on Sunday against the Heat to keep things somewhat merry for Christmas.

The Magic are coming off a 90-80 loss to the shorthanded Bulls, who entered the game with the league’s worst record. And this was after they had lost their previous four games in the U.S. by an unsightly margin....

Over their last six games, in which they have failed to reach the 100-point mark in each, the Magic have a league-worst offensive rating of 91.7 points per 100 possessions (far behind the Bulls, who own the second worst rating at 96.9 points per). The Magic in that stretch also have the league’s worst effective field goal percentage at 44.8 percent and true shooting at 47.9 percent, both of which are comfortably ahead of the next worst team.

For those who care for the more traditional percentages, the Magic in those six games have shot 39.1 percent from the field and 31.9 percent from three.

It’s been flat-out ugly. And it doesn’t get much easier with the surging, defensive-minded Heat, who recently bumped the Magic form the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.

Miami has won four-straight games, which has included home victories over the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks. The Heat, owners of the league’s eighth-best defensive rating at 105.8 points per, have had a rating of just 100.8 during their four-game winning streak.

“We’re doing it on defense,” Dwyane Wade told Fox Sports Florida. “We’re not the offensive juggernauts like a few teams in this league. We can score at times. We got guys who can put the ball in the basket, but we got to win on defense, which we’re doing together.”

Wade - who is set to retire after the season, making this what will likely be his final game in Orlando - will look to help the Heat get back to .500 at 16-16.

The Magic, though, have won the first two match-ups of the season against their instrastate rival. They will be desperate for victory and are long overdue for an offensive breakout, namely Aaron Gordon, who has made just 13 of 53 attempts from the field over his last four games (24.5 percent).

Let’s hope the Magic can bust out of their funk before they head into the Christmas break.