Game Preview: Magic at Heat

Orlando Magic head down the Florida Turnpike to challenge the dismal Miami Heat

Orlando Magic vs. Miami Heat

Friday, March 14th, 2008

Records: Orlando- 42-24, 3rd place in the Eastern Conference; Miami- 11-52, last place in the Eastern Conference.  Orlando on the road- 22-12, Miami at home- 6-26

The Magic take the short trip down the turnpike to I-95 South to take on the tanking Miami Heat. This is the fourth and final meeting between the two teams with the Magic winning the first three. Orlando has won eight straight in the series. The Heat lead the all-time series, 40-34.

The Heat are playing out the string and hoping to win the lottery. They shut down superstar Dwayne Wade, and are now left with Shawn Marion, who they recently acquired from Phoenix for Shaquille O'Neal and a bunch of guys. Marion now leads the team with 17.5 ppg., 9.8 rpg., and 1.5 bpg. Along with Marion, the Heat start Ricky Davis (13.8 ppg.), Jason Williams (8.4 ppg., 4.6 apg.), Daequan Cook (7.5 ppg.), and Mark Blount (8.7 ppg., 3.9 rpg.).

Miami's depth includes point guard Chris Quinn, shooting guard Bobby Jones, and forward Alexander Johnson. This Heat team is a shell of the team that won the NBA title just two seasons ago.

Statistically speaking

The Heat are 29th in the league in points scored (93.7 ppg.), 14th in field goal percentage (45.48%), 18th in adjusted field goal percentage (49%), 19th in three point shooting (35%), 27th in free throw percentage (72.31%), 27th in field goal percentage allowed (47.21%), 21st in opponents ppg. (101.3), 18th in opponents three point shooting (37%), 18th in steals (7.2/gm.), 20th turnovers (14.4/gm.), 23rd in blocked shots (4.3/gm.), 30th in rebounding (38.2/gm.), and 23rd in assists (20.4/gm.).

Here's how Orlando matches up: 6th scoring (104.8 ppg.), 5th FG % (47.44%), 2nd in adjusted FG% (53%), 5th three point shooting (38%), 23rd FT% (72.54%), 9th FG% allowed (44.95%), 16th opponents scoring (100.2 ppg.), 15th opponents three point shooting (36%), 26th steals (6.2/gm.), 14th turnovers (14.0/gm.), 25th in blocked shots (4.2/gm.), 13th in rebounding (42.2/gm.), and 24th in assists (20.2/gm.).

What do the stats tell us? The Heat struggle in all phases of basketball, scoring, defense, and rebounding. That's why they're currently the worst team in the NBA.

Best matchup for Miami- Shawn Marion vs. Rashard Lewis- Marion is too quick for Lewis off the dribble and he can elevate over him. Marion is also a solid three-point shooter. Marion has averaged 17.5 ppg., and 9 rpg. against the Magic this season (both meeting came when he was with Phoenix).

Best matchup for Orlando- Dwight Howard vs. Mark Blount- Dwight has been playing fantastic ball of late, especially early on in games. Blount is not known for his defensive prowess, and Howard should have an easy time down low. Howard is averaging 20.7 ppg., and 15.7 rpg. in three games against the Heat this season.

Keys to a Magic victory:

1. Treat Miami like they are a worthy adversary. Although the win/loss record and all the stats don't show it, Miami is a professional basketball team. They can win a game if their opponent isn't ready to play. The Magic must come out with some intensity early on, and put the Heat down.

2. Hit the glass. Miami is the worst rebounding team in the NBA. Orlando needs to hit the glass with four players on each end, and get some second chance opportunities.

3. Keep Shawn Marion off the glass. Marion is their best player, and he's a very active player for his size. If the Magic can box out and keep him off the glass, Miami will have a hard time stopping Orlando on the offensive end, and an even tougher time scoring on their end.

Final thoughts: No letdowns on this night thanks to coach Van Gundy ripping on the players for the lack of effort from time to time on Wednesday. Magic by 15.