It’s a bit of a statement game tonight for the Florida teams when the Magic visit South Florida for the fourth and final meeting between the Sunshine State rivals. Miami hasn’t been very successful against the NBA’s top teams, while Orlando can’t seem to find any consistency. But with the Magic just 4.5 games behind Miami in the Southeast Division, a win here could make that race a little more interesting.
How the Teams Enter
The Heat sort of showed who they were last week. The easily handled two bad teams in Sacramento and Washington – no club has more wins by at least 20 points than the Heat. But Miami failed huge tests at Chicago last Thursday and Sunday at home vs. the Knicks, blowing a 15-point lead and scoring only 86 points against one of the league’s worst defensive clubs.
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The Magic have been maddeningly up-and-down but appear to be on one of their upswings. Orlando has won three in a row and five of six, scoring at least 100 points in the past five games. The Magic, ironically, also enter off a game vs. the Knicks, beating New York 116-110 on Tuesday night in Orlando. The Magic rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit as Dwight Howard dominated the small Knicks with 30 points and 16 rebounds. By comparison to the Heat’s result vs. New York two nights earlier, Orlando shot 57.9 percent from the field after the break and scored 69 points, which was nearly double the Heat's second-half point total.
Magic at Heat Betting Story Lines
Let’s start with the key injuries, both of which belong to Orlando. Guard Gilbert Arenas, who seemed to finally be finding his stroke, was a late scratch from Tuesday’s game with a calf injury. But he practiced Wednesday and will play. So will point guard Jameer Nelson, who briefly left Tuesday’s game after rolling his ankle. It will be a little sore but he will go. Nelson had one of his better games Tuesday, scoring 23 of his season-high 26 points in the second half. Nelson says he is making a concerted effort to be more aggressive offensively.
That game Sunday against the Knicks started an incredibly tough stretch for Miami: 11 in a row against teams with winning records and all nearly locks for the playoffs. Just the rest of this week the Heat play at the Spurs tomorrow night and host the Bulls on Sunday. Miami also hosts San Antonio and the Lakers in this stretch. The Heat are 0-7 against teams with a .700 winning percentage or better (0-3 vs. Boston; 0-2 vs. Chicago, which did fall just below .700 with Wednesday’s loss to Atlanta; 0-2 vs. Dallas.). Miami is also below .500 (13-14) against teams with a winning record. Close games also aren’t the Heat’s forte as they are 5-11 in games decided by five points or less.
One major problem of Miami’s has been the Heat are getting torched by opposing point guards. It happened against Chicago’s Derrick Rose and New York’s Chauncey Billups last week. The Heat will debut recently signed Mike Bibby tonight. He will help with three-point shooting and ball distribution, but he’s terrible defensively.
The Heat have taken two of the first three games vs. Orlando this season. You may remember the last matchup, a 104-100 Heat victory on Feb. 3. LeBron James clearly took that game personally after Howard mocked James’ pre-game antics and James scored a season-high 51 points (with 11 rebounds and eight assists), including 23 in the first quarter. It was the ninth 50-point game of James’ career – all on the road, oddly. Only Michael Jordan in the past 25 years had had a game of at least 50 points, 11 boards and eight assists. The game really wasn’t as close as the score, as Miami led 90-69 at one point before a late Magic rally made it respectable. Howard had 17 points and 16 rebounds, but only one point after halftime.
Magic at Heat Betting Odds and Key Trends
Miami is a five-point favorite with the total at 197, according to NBA betting odds. More than 60 percent of the lean is on the Heat. Miami is 22-6 at home and 11-17 ATS. Orlando is 15-13 on the road and 11-16-1 ATS.
Orlando is 3-7 ATS following a straight-up victory.
Miami is 1-4 ATS in its past five as a favorite.
The ‘under’ is 9-2 in Orlando’s past 11.
The ‘over’ is 9-4-1 in Miami’s past 14 home games.
Favorite is 4-1 ATS in past five meetings.
‘Over’ is 7-3 in past 10 meetings.
NBA Picks: Magic at Heat Predictions
The Heat are so hard to read against good teams, but they seem to mostly have Orlando’s number. Surprisingly, Howard’s numbers against Miami this year are a bit below his season averages despite Miami’s lack of size. The Heat need to make a statement starting this grueling stretch and will cover, thanks largely to the fact Nelson might not be 100 percent and Miami will be well-rested. Also take the ‘over’.
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