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Magic vs. Heat preview: Struggling Magic take on surging Heat

Orlando has dropped seven straight, Miami has won 9 of 10

Miami Heat v Orlando Magic Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

It’s a matchup of two Floridian teams trending in completely opposite directions.

While the surging Heat are making their climb up the Eastern Conference standings, the sinking Magic continue to creep closer to the bottom of the league.

Orlando has dropped seven straight games, giving them the fourth worst record in the league at 13-25. Miami has won nine of their last 10, giving them a winning record for the first time all season and placing them fourth in the East.

The two teams meet for the second time in four days, with the Magic likely to be even more shorthanded and out of position than they were the first time.

Terrence Ross, who missed the Spurs game with a knee injury, is listed as questionable. Aaron Gordon, who made a brief 14-minute return against the Heat on Thursday, is listed as out. As are Evan Fournier, James Ennis and Cole Anthony.

That likely means a second straight start for Chuma Okeke, who struggled with his shot while making his first career start against the Spurs on Friday — which was Orlando’s 17th different starting lineup this season.

“Everything is a learning experience,” Okeke told reporters after the game. “You’re going to make mistakes and you’re going to learn from those mistakes, and that’s how you get better. I feel like I’m getting better. I’ve just got to keep on playing hard and make my shots,”

Okeke, who went 2-for-9 with eight points in a 104-77 loss to the Spurs, wasn’t the only member of the Magic who struggled from the field. Outside of Nikola Vucevic, who had 26 points on 12 of 18 shooting, the rest of the Magic combined to shoot just 17-for-62, which equates to a dismal 27.4%, while setting season lows for points in a quarter (10) and a game (previous low was 84 against the Knicks).

An undermanned and offensively challenged team like the Magic can’t afford to give possessions away, but that’s what they’ve done at a high rate of late, with 14 turnovers against the Heat on Thursday and 18 against the Spurs on Friday. Not that it isn’t understandable when being down seven rotational players.

The Heat’s recent surge has coincided with the team reaching near full strength, although they will again be without Bam Adebayo and Avery Bradley against the Magic. Jimmy Butler looked like his normal self on Thursday against the Magic with 27 points and 11 assists in a 111-103 Heat win. Over their 10-game stretch, which includes five straight road wins, Miami has posted the second-best defensive rating in the league at 104.8 points per 100 possessions.

Who: Orlando Magic (13-25) vs. Miami Heat (20-18)

When: Sunday at 7 p.m.

Where: Amway Center — Orlando, Florida

TV: Fox Sports Florida