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Magic vs. Heat preview: The final stop of the road trip

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After going 2-3 out West, the Magic are back in Florida to take on the Heat in Miami

NBA: Miami Heat at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

After a nine-day, five-game West Coast trip, the Magic are finally back in Florida. Just not Orlando, quite yet.

The Magic, after going 2-3 on their western swing (success or no?), are in Miami to take on the Heat. After that, the Magic are home for 9 of their next 11 games (actually, not really, two of those are “home” games in Mexico City), offering an opportunity to establish themselves as a true threat for a playoff spot. At 11-12, the Magic currently hold the eighth and final position, sitting 1.5 games ahead of the Wizards and, none other than their interstate rivals themselves, the Heat.

The two meet for the first time since opening night, when the Magic won 104-101 behind a 26-point, 16-rebound performance by Aaron Gordon. The Heat (9-13) - after dropping eight of 10 games, capped by an ugly home loss to the now 5-19 Atlanta Hawks - rebounded last weekend with home victories over the Pelicans and Jazz. After their match-up with Orlando, they head on the road for a six-game trip, making Tuesday’s game all the more important.

NBA: Miami Heat at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Heat, though, will be shorthanded. Already without Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters, the Heat could also be missing Rodney McGruder and Tyler Johnson, both of whom are questionable.

The match-up to watch will be at the center position with Hassan Whiteside, who is coming off his third 20-20 game of the season, and Nikola Vucevic, who during the Magic’s trip out West averaged 24.4 points and 11.6 rebounds per game while shooting 55.2 percent from the field. When the two squared off on opening night, Vooch was held to 12 points on 4 of 12 shooting, which remains his season-low on the season.

The two teams are neck-and-neck towards the bottom of the league in offensive rating with the Magic’s 106.1 points per 100 possessions just edging out the Heat’s 105.6, ranking 24th and 25th, respectively. The Heat hold the edge in defensive rating, ranking 10th at 106.8 points per. The Magic, at 108.6, rank 17th.

With a win, the Magic would finish their six-game road trip with a 3-3 record. It matches the Magic’s longest road trip of the season, with the next six-game swing beginning December 31 in Charlotte.

Be sure to join the conversation later in the GameThread.