Cannot change the past, so time now to prepare for a team that’s already defeated the Miami Heat once this season: the Orlando Magic. Incidentally dunk-off rivals Derrick Jones Jr. and Aaron Gordon meet again. One seeking revenge, the other validation.
Jones Jr. hasn’t done well in his three games versus Orlando, with the Magic outscoring the Heat by 15 points while he was on the court. Kendrick Nunn and Kelly Olynyk with 6 points each, are the other two rotation players who had minus numbers (plus for opponents) against their intrastate rivals.
For Olynyk and Jones Jr. the problem was rebounding, because both gave up the most rebounds per 100 possessions versus bruisers such as Nikola Vucevic, Mo Bamba, Khem Birch and Gordon. Gordon missed the Portland Trail Blazers game with a sore knee, so his rematch with Jones may or may not happen on Wednesday.
Nunn had a different problem, i.e. stopping the Magic’s guards. Orlando opponents made 45% of their overall attempts, and an astonishing 45% of their 3-point attempts while Nunn was in the game. Keeping 6’7” Evan Fournier and 6’6” Terrence Ross in check was a problem for the 6’2” Nunn in their previous encounters.
Defeating the Milwaukee Bucks for the Heat’s 39th victory felt great, since it matched Miami’s win total of all of last season. Going for number 40 won’t be easy since Vucevic, Fournier and Ross have historically been a problem with their size and height. Adding the bulk of Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodala, and Solomon Hill might help against the Magic.
Another surprise twist was how confidently Olynyk drained this 3-pointer before getting in foul trouble.
That step-back jumper by a 6’11” center is virtually unstoppable. Added to 7’ Meyers Leonard and 6’7” Duncan Robinson, the Heat got shooters who not only space the floor, but beg for shooting fouls by perimeter defenders.
A Gordon vs. Jones Jr. rematch would be icing on the cake if Gordon is healthy. The main event is the main thing, which is proving the Heat is a serious contender for the championship.