Miami Heat Index: Orlando Magic

Heat Reaction: Grading Magic-Heat

March, 1, 2014
Mar 1
11:10
PM ET
Windhorst By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com
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Heat Reaction: Grading Heat-Magic

January, 4, 2014
Jan 4
11:12
PM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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The defending champions visit the Magic tonight in a battle of Florida squads. Our 3-on-3 crew weighs in.


1. Fact or Fiction: 3-point D bigger Heat issue than boards.


Tom Haberstroh: Fiction. Both require playoff levels of effort with their controlled-chaos defensive schemes. That's unrealistic right now with this team and the Finals about 60 games away. But they'll need to bring their rebounding A-game, not their 3-point defense, if they want to get past Indiana.

Michael Wallace: Fact. It's almost as if the Heat have accepted that they are and will be one of the worst rebounding teams in the league. They've found a way to work around that and play to other strengths. Miami is ranked 25th in the league in 3-point defensive percentage entering the weekend. Perimeter defense is supposed to be a strength for the Heat. But their over-aggressiveness can be exploited against great shooting teams, especially in the playoffs.

Brian Windhorst: Fiction. I know the Heat's defense has slipped a little over the last month but we also know that they have an energy-based defense that usually doesn't hit its stride until the second half of the season and the playoffs. Teams will be able to get 3-pointers off against the Heat because they can pass the ball through their rotations, the Heat's system is designed with the belief that the percentages will prove them correct. The Heat can overcome rebounding but it still is a weak spot and always will be.


2. Fact or Fiction: LeBron will shoot at least 60 percent against Orlando.


Haberstroh: Fact. Betting against his efficiency feels like a bad gamble these days. I don't see Orlando's defense sans Nik Vucevic giving him problems.

Wallace: Fiction. LeBron has had relative struggles against the Magic, considering he's shot only 50 percent in his two previous games against Orlando this season. Recent turnovers aside, LeBron has been dialed in of late offensively despite the battle with a groin strain.

Windhorst: Fact. First, LeBron is basically a 60 percent shooter this season, so we're looking for an average game. Second, Nik Vucevic is questionable with an ankle injury and if he doesn't play then the Magic won't have their best rim protector.


3. Fact or Fiction: Final time Miami plays Jameer Nelson in a Magic uniform.


Haberstroh: Fact. With the lack of point guard depth at the top of the West, I see Nelson finding an NBA home outside of Orlando for the first time in his career. Golden State could make some sense if they can't get Andre Miller. Not sure if OKC or the Clippers would give up assets for Nelson but they both could use an extra body at point.

Wallace: Fiction. The Magic seem to covet their additional cap space that could make them serious players in summer free agency once Nelson comes off the books after the season. He's spent his entire career in Orlando and insists he wants to ride this out. But considering the team's youth movement, Nelson's time with the Magic appears numbered one way or the other.

Windhorst: Fiction. At $8 million, it's not an easy contract to move even if it's not guaranteed after this season. The Magic will want a first-round pick or a young asset in return and won't be that willing to take on money. That is not a recipe for a likely trade.


Heat Reaction: Grading Magic-Heat

November, 23, 2013
11/23/13
11:21
PM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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Heat keeping their eyes on the big picture

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
1:21
AM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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ORLANDO -- Word around the NBA is that the Indiana Pacers have commanded the Miami Heat's full attention.

That was certainly the case Wednesday night.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade stood shoulder to shoulder in the Amway Center's visiting locker room whispering between each other and staring intently at the big-screen television tuned into overtime of the game between the Pacers and New York Knicks.

Miami had just finished feasting on the young Orlando Magic in a 120-92 victory. And Heat players washed down their fifth straight win with bowls of gumbo, plates of chicken and turkey, along with slices of coconut and chocolate cake -- all prepared by Ray Allen's mother, Flo, who lives in Orlando.

“It's early Thanksgiving,” James shouted through the room.

If anyone questioned the Heat's level of hunger after winning their second consecutive title, the answer could be found somewhere between the devoured buffet-style spread and the head-nodding approval of Miami's players as their biggest nemesis in the East secured a tough road victory.

Earlier this season, a similar episode played out in the Pacers locker room as Indiana's players gazed at the TV to watch the finish of a Heat game. It's no coincidence these teams go out of their way to keep an eye on one another.

The Heat have heard all of the talk and have internalized the subtle and overt messages the Pacers have sent with their 10-1 start and designs on the top seed this time around after losing to Miami in Game 7 of the conference finals.

To that end, James offered another declaration Wednesday.

“We don't concede anything,” said James, who rested the entire fourth quarter for the third straight game as Miami notched its most lopsided win of the season. “We're here to play. We don't talk about the No. 1 seed. We don't really get involved in that. We want to play No. 1 basketball, be No. 1 in our league, and let the record take care of itself.”

The Heat didn't see anything to worry about or lose their appetite over as they showered, dressed and ate before departing Orlando. But best believe the Pacers have firmly established themselves as a nuisance of a team the Heat want to put in their place when the time comes.

Indiana and Miami don't meet for the first of their four regular-season games until Dec. 10. There will be plenty of hype and national spotlight on those matchups, but the Heat could just as easily dismiss them as encounters in which they have nothing to prove. Judging by the whispers and smirks in pockets of the locker room Wednesday, the Pacers could go 81-1 and it would only annoy the Heat.

But not faze them.

“We'll always be the hunted team, because no matter how good of a start Indiana has, they're going to be worked up to play us,” center Chris Bosh said Wednesday between bites of gumbo and cornbread. “We gave them some pain that they'll never forget. That's something we understand.”

Bosh then tilted his head in quizzical fashion, swallowed his food and suddenly remembered the time of the year.

“Man, what are we talking about the No. 1 seed for? It's November,” he said. “We understand they've had a little bit more time than us to think about it. That's going to be their juice and everything. But there's a lot of ball to play.”

And there's are a lot of improvements Miami must make, despite an average victory margin of 17.8 points during its five-game winning streak. The Heat also have won eight of their last nine games since that 1-2 start to the season.

The Heat are finding ways to win now despite taking a long view of the season. That primarily is the reason why Wade sat out of his second game in as many nights to rest knees that have been sore since he reluctantly played in both games of a back-to-back set last weekend. The Heat on Wednesday sounded like they're going to be even more cautious with Wade than they already were entering the season after he had chronic problems with both knees during last season's title run.

At one stage before Wednesday's game, coach Erik Spoelstra's comments about the approach with Wade sounded like ones he's used to temper some enthusiasm and expectations surrounding Greg Oden's methodical progress.

“We want to make sure that he's getting stronger, feeling better as the season goes on,” Spoelstra said of Wade. “We wanted to use these last couple of days to get him healthy, get him back training, start building his legs back up. We do have a plan. We want to be patient with it. We want to be disciplined with it, considering all the circumstances.”

As they Heat bide their time as Wade continues a painstaking recovery from offseason shock-wave therapy treatment on his knee, they've been boosted by a supporting cast around James that grows more productive each game.

After Allen, Michael Beasley, Norris Cole, Rashard Lewis and Mario Chalmers have stepped up with big performances in recent games, it was James Jones' turn Wednesday. Jones, who has spent much of the season as the Heat's unofficial 13th man in the rotation, made his second straight start at guard for Wade and had 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range against the Magic.

Jones was one of five players to score in double figures for the Heat, who shot 51.4 percent overall and were 15-of-24 on 3-pointers en route to leading by as many as 36 points.

“Every year we've gotten better,” Jones said. “Every year, we've gotten more continuity, more familiarity with each other and it's reflected in the way we play.”

James considers this season's version of the Heat as the deepest team he's played with since he arrived in Miami, which is high praise considering he's led the team to three consecutive trips to the Finals and back-to-back titles.

“And Greg hasn't even played a regular-season game [yet],” James pointed out Wednesday. “It's great to have so many guys that can play so many meaningful minutes.”

A week ago, there was the notion that Indiana would run away with the regular season in the East and the top seed. Now that they're starting to gain rhythm and hit a stride, the Heat insist they aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

“We still want to take care of first place in the East,” Bosh said. “But we're going to stay grounded, take it one game at a time and keep putting everything together appropriately.”
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy joined the Dan Le Batard show on Monday. Although Van Gundy has fired a couple of salvos in the Heat's direction this past season, he has been more critical of the media's intensive coverage of the team.

Van Gundy confessed he was surprised the Heat lost the Finals and had them winning quite easily in five or six games. He also said that he has trouble being sympathetic toward those, like LeBron James and the Heat, whose performances fall short of expectations. After all, it's sports. And, besides, the Heat brought the criticism and scrutiny on themselves:
Look I’m not the most empathetic person in the world anyway, but look first of all it’s sports. The thing that would make me feel bad for somebody was some personal issue. I’m not going to feel bad that you are struggling on a basketball court because you only get to within two wins of a championship. Come on there was nothing to feel sorry for. I got a little tired I’ll admit of the whole everybody hates us routine. I thought first of all it’s not true. Okay it’s the same as the Yankees type of thing. There’s just a lot of people interested, so there may be more people who dislike you. There are also more people that like you. There’s a great deal of interest. Second of all they brought it on … LeBron more than anybody. They brought all that scrutiny and attention on yourself. You went out seeking it then don’t cry in the face of it. That to me got to be a very tiresome story line.

Van Gundy also isn't publicly buying that James shrunk from the moment:
First of all no I really haven’t [coached players scared in big moments]. I think people bring that up usually anecdotally. They’ll think of one time or two times. Look even this year we saw LeBron James have great 4th quarters in the Boston series and the Chicago series. I certainly experienced it first hand when we played them back in the Eastern Conference Finals. He was tremendous against us. He had one huge shot that really probably kept the series from being a sweep. No I don’t buy it at all. I certainly don’t think there is any fear there. Now you can go back and criticize his play in the 4th quarters. I think that’s fair, but I don’t think it’s because he’s afraid of the moment or anything like that. He’s had too many good moments in those times for me to believe that.

Heat begin their toughest stretch

February, 22, 2011
2/22/11
1:29
PM ET
Windhorst By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com
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Dwyane Wade
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images Sport
The Heat face Chicago on Thursday -- the first in a series of tough matchups.

MIAMI – Now 56 games into their season, the Heat have a sterling record but a bit of an unsteady reputation.

They came out of the All-Star Break with the third-best record in the league, right on the heels of the Celtics for the top mark in the Eastern Conference. But they are 0-6 against the teams with the five best records in the league, and 4-8 against the top five teams in each conference.

According to the raw numbers, the Heat have gotten to 41-15 by playing the second-easiest schedule -- though that is somewhat circumstantial because Miami has played 31 road games, the most of any team. The Heat have also played the third-most total games, meaning they’ve had less time off and practice time than most teams, all of which makes their schedule tougher than it looks.

But all of that is about to get settled. The Heat are about to enter the most favorable yet demanding part of their schedule.

Starting Tuesday night against the Kings, the Heat will play 10 of their next 12 games in Miami. They will play 12 of their next 14 against teams currently in playoff position in both conferences.

This week it’s games against the Bulls and Knicks, and next week it is an Orlando-San Antonio back-to-back. In two weeks the Heat start a homestand that includes the Lakers, Bulls, Spurs, Trail Blazers and Thunder.

In short, the Heat are headed for a graduate-level course load in what could become an intense battle for the top seed and a referendum on their championship hopes.

“We think we’re the most improved team since the end of November,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And people are saying that we haven’t played up to par against the best in the league.”

That is what people are saying, especially after the Heat dropped to 0-3 against the Celtics last week. It is also why there’s going to be some pressure on Thursday’s game in Chicago, a team the Heat have not yet beaten, when Joakim Noah is expected back from injury.

“We look forward to the big games and we’ll make sure our focus is there,” Dwyane Wade said. “It is a good thing. We’re going to focus going into the playoffs.”

Though Udonis Haslem is still on the sideline with a foot injury and Mike Miller is recovering from a serious of head injuries, the Heat are generally as healthy as they have been all season. That health enabled them to go into the All-Star break winners of 10 of their last 11 games. They will also get numerous off days and practice sessions during this challenging period.

They have been together since September and worked out many of their major issues. Now is the time for fairly judge them and how good they truly are.

“We’ll find out in the next few weeks,” Spoelstra said. “I think we’re all looking forward to it.”

Heat-Magic notes

February, 4, 2011
2/04/11
8:03
AM ET
If you're the Magic this morning, you have to be a little bit frustrated, as Kevin Arnovitz explains:

For Heat, top-heavy East is a puzzle

February, 4, 2011
2/04/11
2:01
AM ET
Wallace By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com
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ORLANDO -- The lanes have been reversed on the Florida turnpike.

A series that the Orlando Magic have dominated in recent years has shifted back into the hands of the Miami Heat. No, Southeast Division supremacy wasn't decided with the Heat's 104-100 victory against the Magic at the Amway Center on Thursday night.

There are still plenty of games and the entire postseason to play out. But it became abundantly clear that this budding -- and, at times, bitter -- rivalry is no longer up for grabs. The Heat erased that debate with their dominant performance through three quarters, despite the fact they nearly imploded down the stretch.

The only thing Miami did wrong was ruin a perfectly good rout by almost squandering a 20-point lead with six minutes left. It added suspense to what should have been a statement victory. Still, it spoke volumes about how things stack up atop the Eastern Conference standings.

According to Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, there's clearly a pecking order.

“Right now, Boston and Miami have separated themselves, and Chicago has a pretty significant advantage on us, and Atlanta and New York is a little bit behind that,” Van Gundy said. “So there is a little separation. I think that we can get there in 10 weeks, I really do. But you can't say that, right now, we're right there with those teams.”

What Thursday's result showed was how important jockeying for playoff position will be over the season's stretch run. It revealed how vital it might be for certain teams to avoid others -- even if it means falling a spot or two in the standings to land a more preferable playoff matchup.

As things now stand, there's a round-robin like routine among the top five teams in the East. Consider yourself warned, because it's about to get dizzy. With impressive wins in two of three matchups with their intrastate rival, the Heat have the Magic's number. Yet Miami can't beat Boston.

The Celtics have dominated the Heat in two meetings this season, but have struggled in their two-game split against the Magic. Atlanta can't do a thing with Boston, but has closed the gap on Orlando. Meanwhile, the Bulls are the only team among the top six in the East with victories this season against the Celtics, Heat and Magic.

Boston (37-11), Miami (35-14), Chicago (34-14), Atlanta (31-18) and Orlando (31-19) are separated by a total of seven games. In games played among the East's elite, Boston is an impressive 7-2 while Chicago is 3-3, Atlanta is 3-4, Orlando is 4-6 and Miami is 3-5.

“This is as competitive as the conference has been, where there are several teams that feel that if they can get their game together, they can probably advance,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after Thursday's game. “I don't remember a year when this many teams in the East -- I've seen it sometimes in the West -- where there are a lot of teams right there in the fight. But teams over here are building playoff habits. Boston's got a playoff defense. Chicago's got a playoff defense. We do. Orlando does. Atlanta has proved they can be a very good defensive team.”

Spoelstra said health will be the most important factor leading into the playoffs. One twisted ankle, tweaked knee or sprained shoulder can easily turn an NBA Finals contender into first-round fodder. What makes the race in the East even more intriguing is that several teams have yet to be whole this season, and are just now starting to get close to full strength.

“It's going to be all about who's going into the playoffs with a good confidence and rhythm,” Spoelstra said. “We have confidence right now, because we feel like we're almost complete. But we've got 10 weeks left to try to put it all together.”

The Heat aren't alone with that dilemma.

In Boston, Kendrick Perkins just returned to the lineup and Delonte West is due back soon. In Miami, Mike Miller is gradually regaining his rhythm after recently returning from thumb surgery, while Udonis Haslem continues to target a late March or early April comeback from foot surgery. In Chicago, Derrick Rose is close to playing with Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah for the first time in months.

So things in the East will likely only grow tighter.

“There's not one clear cut team that's better than the other,” Heat forward LeBron James said. “I think Boston is on top for a reason. They've proven it and they're playing some great basketball. But when you look at one through four, us, Orlando, Chicago, Atlanta and Boston -- you can't take Orlando out of it even though they're not in the top four. It's a lot of competition in the Eastern Conference and it's going to be sweet to see how things shape up.”

For now, the Heat can look beyond the Florida Turnpike for their biggest threats in the East. Those lay waiting in Chicago and Boston.

It's becoming more and more obvious that Miami won't get tripped -- or tricked -- by the Magic.

Much has changed since last Heat-Magic tilt

February, 3, 2011
2/03/11
7:07
AM ET
Windhorst By Brian Windhorst
ESPN.com
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ORLANDO –- It would be great fun if the Magic and the Heat would fully embrace their potential rivalry and immerse themselves in trash talk, hard fouls and gratuitous gloating.

Maybe someday it will come to that -- after all, they have all the needed ingredients, from the regionalism to dislike within the front offices to sometimes loudmouthed stars. While the teams largely attempt to diffuse the rivalry aspect of their next meeting, which is Thursday night at Amway Center, there’s some grounded methodology.

Each team is still trying to figure out what is going on with itself, much less what is happening with the in-state competition.

It’s jarring to consider how much has happened to both teams since the last time they met, which was on Thanksgiving Eve in a 104-95 Magic win.

That loss, which saw LeBron James and Dwyane Wade fail to help each other out in the stretch run as the Magic pulled away, dipped the Heat to 8-7. Coach Erik Spoelstra had just been called out by Phil Jackson on a radio show as a candidate to get fired sooner rather than later. And President Obama was giving interviews commenting on the Heat’s struggles, suggesting that they needed more time.

James was routinely finishing games with more turnovers than assists while playing stretches at point guard, a position he said he didn’t really like to play. Chris Bosh was complaining that he didn’t completely understand where his shots were coming from in the offense. Wade was in the midst of one of the worst shooting slumps off his career. Just two days prior, the Heat announced Udonis Haslem was out indefinitely because he needed surgery on his foot.

“It’s going slower than we all thought,” James lamented after the loss. “At some point, we’re going to have to figure it out.”

While the Heat were in their locker room trying to disarm the critics, down the hall the Magic were in high spirits. They were in the midst of a 15-4 start, exactly the type of performance many were expecting. They were even getting great production from Vince Carter, who seemed to be a vital cog in many wins. When they beat the Heat, the Magic were 7-1 when Carter scored 13 points or more and just 3-3 when he didn’t.

In victory, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy playfully mocked Obama for even bothering to discuss the Heat.

"We got to get some people back to work; I don't think [Obama] needs to be worried about turning the Heat around,” Van Gundy said after the game. “Let Erik [Spoelstra] worry about that, because Erik certainly isn't turning the economy around.”

Taking that snapshot, it is hard to compute exactly where the two teams stand now. And with that realization, it is even harder to predict where they might be when they meet for their final regular-season game in exactly a month.

Of course, Orlando has since pretty much blown up its team in a large December trade that shipped out Carter, Rashard Lewis and Marcin Gortat, brought in Gilbert Arenas and Jason Richardson and brought back Hedo Turkoglu.

After some initial success following the deal, the Magic are just 6-6 in the past 12 games. That stretch includes a loss to Memphis earlier this week that brought out a much more sober Van Gundy than the guy cracking jokes about the Heat in November.

"We're not ready to contend," Van Gundy said after the loss to the Grizzlies. "We don't defend hard enough for long enough, and we're going to see if over the next 10 weeks now if it'll change.”

That came exactly a week after Dwight Howard lamented a home loss to the Pistons and the Magic’s inconsistent play.

“Either we get it together or we’re just going to be a playoff team that doesn’t win a championship,” Howard said.

Meanwhile, since they last visited Central Florida, the Heat have ditched that near-.500 record and traded it in for the contender status they were perhaps prematurely awarded last July. Their 21-1 record from post-Thanksgiving through mid-January vaulted them past the sluggish and metamorphizing Magic and briefly even into first place in the Eastern Conference.

Then, just as soon as they’d looked like they’d be doing the laughing, the Heat started to appear fragile, as a round of injuries sent them on a 2-6 slide that battered their egos. They arrive in Orlando with a three-game win streak but without a great deal more cohesion than they had back in November.

The team’s expected core lineup -- Wade, Bosh, James, Haslem and Mike Miller -- has yet to spend a second on the floor together. And Miller hasn’t played more than a handful of meaningful minutes with the rest of the group even though the season is 48 games old.

When all of that is digested, it’s simple to see why these two squads haven’t exactly been counting down the days until their next meeting, which is now here.

They’ve been a little busy.

Heat at Orlando: 5 things to watch

February, 3, 2011
2/03/11
7:05
AM ET
By Kevin Arnovitz and Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
Howard and Wade
Kim Klement/US Presswire
Dwight Howard will be awaiting a slashing Dwyane Wade at the rim.

Taking advantage of Orlando's thin front line
Magic starting power forward Brandon Bass sprained his left ankle in Monday's game against Memphis, an injury that will keep him out of Thursday night's game against Miami. That leaves an already-thin Orlando frontcourt even more depleted, with Dwight Howard, Ryan Anderson and a hobbled Malik Allen as the only true Magic big men. How can the Heat expose this lack of depth? "It would obviously be ideal if we can get Dwight Howard into foul trouble," Erik Spoelstra said following the Heat's Wednesday practice. Spoelstra qualified this statement by saying that he doesn't anticipate his team necessarily posting up the Magic to draw the fouls. His preferred strategy is to scramble the defense by getting the Magic off-balance and out of position, then unleashing his attackers -- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh -- to the rim, though the Heat might also post Bosh up selectively.

Dealing with Dwight Howard
Though Heat center Erick Dampier has played sparingly in recent weeks, he's likely to play meaningful minutes as part of the Committee to Contain Dwight Howard. "What's going to happen, more likely, is that it'll be a three-center game," Spoelstra said. "[Howard] commands so much attention that it's hard not to get into foul trouble, and that's the luxury that we have." Whoever is out there for the Heat at the 5 will still have to contend with Howard, both on the block and in pick-and-roll situations. One of those Heat centers, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, described the challenge of defending Howard down on the block. "He's got enough to be the best center in the league as far as I'm concerned," Ilgauskas said. "You just try to prevent that first dribble. When he puts that shoulder down, you just have to meet him, take the first hit and try to push him as far as you can and get him into his hooks. If you can make him shoot his hooks -- he's gotten a lot better, but you have to limit his dunks because that's a 100 percent shot." Difficult as Howard is to slow in the low post, he might be even more lethal on pick-and-rolls. "When Dwight rolls to the hole, we have a team defense, so the guys have to check him and protect until I recover," Ilgauskas said. "Guarding pick-and-rolls and guarding Dwight -- one guy can't do it. You have to have team defense."

Will we see point-less lineups?
When it comes to Heat-Magic games, Mike Miller and Hedo Turkoglu could potentially send the point guard position into extinction. Sure, Jameer Nelson and Mario Chalmers will get the starting nods, but there’s a good chance that their ball-handling skills will become superfluous over the course of the game. Say Miller enters the game for Chalmers -- does Stan van Gundy trust Jameer Nelson to guard Dwyane Wade? On Sunday, Oklahoma City coach Scotty Brooks was comfortable letting 6-foot-3 Russell Westbrook take on Wade defensively, but Nelson needs heels if he wants to stand that tall. But the Magic can counter. If they can stomach some misfires on the offensive end, they can go with Gilbert Arenas. Or they could go unconventional and let Turkoglu take over point guard duties. Turkoglu’s positional flexibility becomes essential when the Magic go head-to-head with the Heat, and we could see the first Redick-Richardson-Turkoglu-Anderson-Howard lineup of the season. Basketball junkies everywhere won’t want to miss it.

Reversing the settle trend
Sometimes the best way to grade the effect of a defensive post presence is to ignore the box score all together and bust out the shot chart. And from the looks of it, the Heat appear to feel a bit skittish about entering Howard’s domain. How can we tell? In their first meeting, the Heat fired off a season-high 37 long 2s from 16-23 feet, according to Hoopdata.com. And in the second matchup, the Heat chucked up another 28 shots from just inside the arc. Those numbers rank above their norm of 25 attempts (which leads the NBA). Living in the midrange area is typically a losing strategy, and that’s a big reason why Howard is so disruptive even if he’s not blocking shots; he forces teams to settle for looks in the most inefficient area on the floor. But the Heat are improving in this department as they incorporate Miller into the lineup. The Heat are recognizing the rising opportunity cost of taking a bad shot, and they’ve started to consistently run their sets past the first option.

Jason Richardson vs. Dwyane Wade
Richardson isn't your prototypical shooting guard and he presents unique challenges, even for a capable defender like Wade. In addition to being one of the best rebounding wings in the league, and a potent option coming off curls and pin-downs, Richardson loves to post up opposing 2-guards. Though he's gotten off to a slow start in that capacity in Orlando, he has consistently ranked among the better post-up guards in the league in recent years. "He's a guy who's very strong, very physical and very athletic who can get his shot," Wade said. "You stick to your principles. Our scheme is never one-on-one. You always have to see other guys and I'm a pretty good post defender, and my biggest thing is to make a guy take a turnaround shot so I can contest it." In some sense, Richardson has emerged as a bellwether for the Magic. He has been slumping of late, but if he's able to get good looks in the half court, the Magic become much more difficult to defend. On the other side of the ball, Wade has a decisive advantage. He's far too quick for Richardson to stay in front of one-on-one. Orlando is one of the best help defenses in the league and will need every bit of assistance to keep a hyperaggressive Wade from slicing through its defensive front line -- even with Howard waiting at the rim.

Stan Van Gundy: Heatles aren't a special draw in Orlando

January, 5, 2011
1/05/11
4:14
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
Stan Van Gundy tells our friend Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel that the Magic don't need the Heat in town to sell out Amway Center in Orlando and that the Heat are "pretty impressed with themselves."



Van Gundy is correct in that the Magic are selling out pretty much every seat in the house. Their attendance stands at 102.1 percent capacity for the season.

But the Magic feature dynamic pricing for their tickets, which suggests that fans in Orlando don't share the same level of interest for every opponent. For instance, section 208, row 15, seat 21 vs. Philadelphia on Wednesday, Jan. 19 will run you $ 30.75. The same seat for the Heat game on Thursday, Feb. 3 and the Lakers game on Sunday, Feb. 13? $125.30.

Meanwhile, the Heat are the only team in the league to draw 100 percent capacity on the road this season.

What Magic's moves mean for Heat matchup

December, 18, 2010
12/18/10
4:15
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
Reports indicate that the Magic have upended their roster in two separate deals with Phoenix and Washington, acquiring Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Gilbert Arenas and Earl Clark while sending out Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, Mickael Pietrus, Marcin Gortat, a 2011 first-round pick and a few shekels.

The Magic and Heat will be fighting for supremacy in the Eastern Conference's Southeast Division and could very well encounter each other in a postseason series. What does the turnover in Orlando mean for that matchup?

Victor Baldizon/NBAE/Getty
Dwyane Wade and Hedo Turkoglu: Intradivision rivals once again.



Orlando gets stretchier in the backcourt
Jason Richardson has been one of the most underrated shooting guards in the league for a good while. By some measurements, he was a top-five player in the 2010 postseason during Phoenix's exciting romp through the Western Conference. Richardson's true shooting percentage is a career-high 57.4, and he's a 42 percent shooter from beyond the arc. He's a far more lethal threat from long range than Vince Carter, is one of the fiercest rebounding guards in basketball and is a menacing post player. Gilbert Arenas' marksmanship has fallen off, but if we assume he'll take some of his minutes away from Chris Duhon, he represents an upgrade in that respect. And for all of Hedo Turkoglu's failings since he departed Orlando during the summer of 2009, he still commands respect from long range. Like Richardson, Turkoglu is shooting at a 42 percent clip from 3-point range, and his true shooting percentage of 56.7 this season is the second-best of his career. Incredible as it is, in the 6-foot-10 stretch hybrid category, Turkoglu's numbers best Rashard Lewis' as well as Mickael Pietrus', who is also on his way out.

The Heat have the length and discipline to chase these shooters off the line, but they'll have to be even more attentive now. Richardson, in particular, is a bear to defend coming around curls. And because he's second only to Landry Fields and Dwyane Wade as an offensive rebounder at the 2, Wade will have to be extra-careful about leaking out in transition, lest he give up second-chance points to the aggressive Richardson.

Stan Van Gundy's blue game card is more to his liking
Orlando's attack has always been predicated on flexibility in the pick-and-roll. Turkoglu has never been more valuable than he was in Van Gundy's system, where he could work as a popper with Jameer Nelson or a perimeter guard, or as the ball handler with a stretch big. Lewis was often Turkoglu's dance partner, but Ryan Anderson, who figures to inherit some minutes now that fellow stretch 4 Lewis is being shipped to Washington, will be a fine apprentice. Brandon Bass, who should move into the starting lineup as the Magic's power forward, adds another dimension as an expert roll man. All of this leaves Van Gundy with innumerable options to run his stuff. Pick any combination: Nelson-anyone, Turkoglu-Bass, Turkoglu-Howard, Richardson-Turkoglu, you name it.

The Heat's pick-and-roll coverage has been some of the best in the league, but Miami's task just got a little tougher. Chris Bosh, in particular, has his work cut out for him. The days of keeping an eye on Rashard Lewis out on the wing are over. Brandon Bass is more of a Paul Millsap analog, the kind of bruising power forward who eats up space and gives Bosh fits. LeBron James, who will draw Turkoglu, also must be prepared to both defend the ball and chase Turkoglu through screens, a job James can more than handle.

What happens when Dwight Howard picks up his third foul at the nine-minute mark of the second quarter?
With Brendan Haywood phoning it in with Dallas, Marcin Gortat had emerged as arguably the best backup center in the NBA. He was the consummate insurance policy for the occasionally foul-prone Dwight Howard. When Van Gundy wanted to maximize his frontcourt brawn, he'd even play Howard and Gortat together for stretches. With the Polish Hammer moving to Phoenix, the Magic are left with Anderson and rookie Daniel Orton as their backups for Howard. It's possible Magic GM Otis Smith has something in the works to acquire another big body, and he'll need one to contend.

In this respect, the Heat's oft-maligned center rotation catches a break. If Orlando opts to assign Anderson meaningful minutes at the 5, we'll likely see a scenario similar to Friday night's game at New York, during which the Heat went smallish. Gortat was by no means a huge difference-maker, but he afforded Van Gundy the luxury of not having to give up much on the glass when it was necessary to sit Howard.

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