Sunshine State counterparts meet for the final time in the 2023-24 regular season on Tuesday when the Miami Heat host the streaking Orlando Magic.
Orlando heads into Miami a winner in three straight and in four of the last five, picking up a 111-99 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday. The win ensured the Magic a winning record on their five-game road swing, which concludes with Tuesday’s contest.
Orlando can finish with a season split of the four games against in-state counterpart Miami.
The Magic took the most recent matchup on Jan. 21, earning a 105-87 victory after the Heat won the Jan. 12 contest 99-96 and the Dec. 20 meeting 115-106.
The Jan. 12 matchup is one of seven games since the beginning of 2024 in which Miami has failed to score 100 points. The Heat fell to 2-5 in those contests with their most recent outing, a 103-95 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.
Sunday’s result ended a two-game winning streak for Miami, which picked up decisions over the Sacramento Kings and Washington Wizards after a seven-game losing streak.
The Heat’s 115 points against Sacramento marked their highest output over the last 13 games, while the 110 points scored at Washington matched Miami’s second-highest total in the same stretch.
Miami’s scoring woes have coincided with assorted injuries to key offensive contributors. Rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. was in the midst of a breakout with double-figures in points over seven straight contests before a groin injury sidelined him for six games from Jan. 15-25.
He returned on Jan. 27, but has yet to score more than eight points in any of his past five appearances.
Duncan Robinson, who is averaging 13.2 points per game, has missed the last three games due to a concussion and is questionable for Tuesday. Tyler Herro (21.0 points) missed Sunday’s contest with a migraine headache and is listed as probable.
Despite the rough patch, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra was upbeat on Sunday discussing the Heat’s defensive prowess. Miami ranks seventh in the league with a 111.2 points-per-game yield.
“The 103 points (by the Clippers), that’s 15 points under their average. It shows what we’re capable of,” Spoelstra said. “It’s three straight games holding teams 10-plus points under their average. You’re only doing that if you’re really rallying around each other.
“That’s our identity, and that’s how we’re going to try to win games right now while we’re getting everybody in a rhythm and figuring out what (the) best plan is offensively.”
Orlando also has been stout defensively, holding teams to 110.6 points per game – fifth-best in the NBA – and limiting opponents to fewer than 100 points in five of the Magic’s last six wins.
Orlando’s 14.7 turnovers forced per game is second-best in the league, as is the team’s steals average at 8.2. Four Magic players are averaging at least one steal a game, including leading scorers Paolo Banchero (23.0 ppg) and Franz Wagner (20.8).
Banchero, a second-year forward, was named an All-Star Game reserve for the Eastern Conference to join Miami’s Bam Adebayo. Wagner is coming off a career high-tying 38 points in Sunday’s win at Detroit.
Magic coach Jamahl Mosley credited Wagner’s outpouring to Orlando’s overall offensive approach.
“Trusting the body of work you’ve put in, and that’s what each one of these guys do,” he said. “That’s what we ask them to do: Continue to work on your game but get it in the flow of the offense.”
–Field Level Media
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