Miami Heat @ Orlando Magic

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The Orlando Magic look to bounce back from a tough loss when they play host to the Miami Heat on Sunday night, who will also look to bounce back from a forgettable loss. The Magic blew an 18-point third quarter lead and lost to the New Orleans Hornets 100-93 on Friday night. The Heat suffered an embarrassing home loss against the Milwaukee Bucks, losing 94-71 Saturday afternoon. Of course, the Heat were without the services of superstar Shooting Guard Dwyane Wade due to his strained left calf. He is currently listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game.

Update: It looks like Dwyane Wade will not play in Sunday night’s game.

The Magic and Heat have already met twice this season with the Heat taking both meetings, winning once in Orlando and once on their home floor. The Heat enter the game with a record of 29-30 and are clinging to the eighth seed – they are percentage points ahead of the Charlotte Bobcats (28-29). The Magic are 39-20 and are currently second in the Eastern Conference. Since the Heat are just 1.5 games out of seventh (but lost to current seventh seed Milwaukee Saturday), there is a decent chance that these two teams could meet in the first round of the playoffs.

The Heat are 15-16 on the road this season, but as mentioned above, they do have a win at Amway Arena. The Magic have been excellent at home, posting a 22-6 record at the Am.

Tip-off from the Am is scheduled for 7:00 pm EST and you can watch the game locally on Sun Sports or nationally on ESPN. As always, if you can’t watch the game, you can listen to it locally on WDBO AM 580 and in Spanish on WONQ AM 1030.

The Line: Orlando – 12.5

Starters:

Orlando

Dwight Howard
Rashard Lewis
Matt Barnes
Vince Carter
Jameer Nelson

Miami

Jermaine O’Neal
Michael Beasley
Quentin Richardson
Daequan Cook
Rafer Alston

The Magic will welcome Rafer Alston back to Orlando. Alston took over for an injured Jameer Nelson last season and helped guide the Magic to the NBA Finals. He was shipped to New Jersey along with Tony Battie and Courtney Lee in exchange for Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson. Alston was later bought out of his contract by the Nets and signed with the Heat.

The Magic had owned the Heat recently until the last two matchups.

The Heat are 2-0 against the Magic this season. They defeated the Magic in Orlando back on November 25th on a Michael Beasley tip-in 99-98. Vince Carter broke a late 95-95 tie with a three-pointer but Jason Williams, who played one of his best games of the season that night, missed two critical free throws and Orlando’s inability to get a late rebound cost them the game. Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 24 points while Jermaine O’Neal and Michael Beasley combined for 18 points and 18 rebounds. Jason Williams had 25 points and 8 assists, Vince Carter had 22 points and Dwight Howard, who was plagued by foul trouble, had 12 points and 16 rebounds.

The two teams met again in American Airlines Arena in Miami on December 17th and the Heat ran away with the game, taking a 15-point lead at the end of the first quarter. They entered the final quarter with a 29-point lead and held on for a 104-88 win. Dwyane Wade scored 25 points and Michael Beasley added 22 points and 8 rebounds. Dwight Howard led the Magic with 17 points and 14 rebounds.

Miami’s offense ranks 15th in efficiency and scores 95.9 points per game.

The Heat start with Dwyane Wade and his status for Sunday night’s game is currently up in the air. In fact, he is listed as doubtful. Wade is averaging 26.1 points on 46.6% shooting, is dishing 6.4 assists per game and is grabbing 4.6 rebounds per game. On LeBron James has a better PER than Wade’s PER of 27.65.

Dwyane Wade has owned the Magic.  Wade has played 19 games against the Magic in his career, torching them for 30.1 points per game on 53.4% shooting. Wade scores more points and shoots at a higher percentage against Orlando than against any other team in the NBA. Wade is averaging “only” 24.5 points per game against the Magic this season.

If Wade can’t go, it will be up to youngster Michael Beasley and veteran Jermaine O’Neal to carry the scoring load. Beasley is often criticized. He is scoring 15.8 points per game and grabbing 6.7 rebounds per game. Those numbers aren’t bad but with the way Beasley dominated in college against stiff competition in the Big 12 and considering that he was the #2 overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, they are disappointing. Beasley has however, been good against Orlando this season. He is averaging 18.5 points per game on 48.4% (he’s shooting just 45.8% on the season and has grabbed 10.0 rebounds per game. O’Neal is averaging 13.4 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game on the year.

The Magic have been playing better on the defensive end and rank third in defensive efficiency.

Miami’s defense gives up 95.0 points per game. Miami’s pace (92.8, 28th in the NBA) makes their points allowed a little deceiving – they rank just 24th in efficiency.

Dwight Howard has ran into foul trouble against the Heat this year and has scored just 14.5 points per game but has still managed to grab 15.0 rebounds per game. If Howard can stay out of foul trouble, which he has done a better job of doing, he should be able to have his way down low on both ends.

Orlando’s guards have been playing much more efficiently and they need to keep that up if the Magic hope to win a championship.

The Heat are coming will be playing their second game in two days (but did have an afternoon start on Saturday) so the Magic need to take advantage of some possible tired legs. The Magic will probably be looking for some revenge after dropping the first two in this series. Orlando has the superior team so they need to come out with a good effort and have good energy to take advantage of it.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Twitter to follow him daily and you can get the HTD app here).