Game #24: Orlando Magic (19-6) vs. Miami Heat (12-11)

If the first game between these two teams is any indication, we're in for some kind of slugfest between these interstate rivals.  I'm sure the Magic remember the first meeting with Miami very clearly, likely with that image of Michael Beasley taking the D-Wade airball and slamming it home to win the game burned into their memories. 

On top of that, Orlando also will notice that Beasley has been playing the best ball of his young career the past few weeks and is coming off of one of his most productive games of the season.  While he hasn't been able to bring that supreme effort every night, the good games outnumber the bad ones and it's starting to become a reasonable expectation for Beasley to have a 20-10 night every game.

The Magic definitely used the last second loss to Miami as inspiration because since that game they've won 8 of 10, including six straight immediately following the Heat victory.  The only two losses came on the road, at Utah and at Phoenix.  Orlando did play last night at home against Toronto, but the game was never really close as the Magic got out to an 11-point lead after the 1st quarter and never looked back. 

As inconsistent as the Heat have been the past several weeks, a big home win over Orlando would go a long way for both the players and coaches.  Coach Spo was quick to point out after Tuesday's win over Toronto that while it was nice, it was just one game.  However, should the Heat bring the same kind of effort and intensity tonight against a much better squad in Orlando, it could send a message that these players are ready to start re-claiming the respect they earned over the first couple weeks of the season. 

A developing situation this week has been the status of Mario Chalmers.  He was relegated to the bench for Tuesday' game after starting all 104 games of his young career.  Afterwards, Coach Spoelstra said that it was a one-time thing; a ‘punishment' for Rio being late to the team's shootaround...but that may not be the case. 

Chalmers was working with the second team during practice on Wednesday, suggesting that Spoelstra was pleased enough with the play of Carlos Arroyo with the first unit to keep that squad together for another game.  When asked about who would be starting for Miami against Orlando, Coach Spo told the media "I'm going to wait and see". 

While the ceiling is still high for Chalmers, he still has a ways to go when it comes to running the offense.  My main knock on Rio is that too many times he'll bring the ball up the floor and spend way too long dribbling around the perimeter, giving the Heat under 10 seconds to run a play and try getting a favorable look at the rim. 

With the offensive weapons that Miami has at their disposal, you want to give them as much time as possible to get the matchup the coaches want.  Whether it be trying to isolate D-Wade on the baseline, getting it down low to Jermaine or letting Beasley work with the ball at the elbow, the more time they have to operate, the better. 

GAME NOTES

  • Dwight Howard had 8 blocks last night against Toronto, and has 12 in his last two games.  He also had a 7-block game earlier this month against the Clippers.
  • Forward Matt Barnes is coming off of his best game in a Magic uniform, scoring 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting and adding 6 rebounds in 30 minutes off the bench. 
  • Before scoring 13 points in last nights win, Jason Williams had just 2 points in the previous 3 games combined, shooting 1-for-13 from the field.  Also to note, in 7 games played in the month of December J-Will has taken only 2 free throws.
  • The Heat are just 1-2 on their current six-game homestand. 
  • A win against Orlando will put Miami back over .500 at home, where after starting the season 6-3 they had lost four straight before getting the W against Toronto on Tuesday. 
  • The Magic have lost their last two on the road after winning 8-straight games away from home before that. 
  • D-Wade needs two free throws to tie the Heat franchise record set by Alonzo Mourning
  • Quentin Richardson is officially listed as questionable for tonight's game, but even if he does dress I'd expect the Heat to take it very slow with Q.

Tonight the tipoff will be at 8pm from the AAA because the game will be nationally televised on TNT.  If you happen to be going to the game, they are giving away car flags so get there a little early if you'd like one. 

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