5 Orlando Magic games that should have been on national TV
Jan. 12: at Miami Heat
The in-state rivalry always has further implications than just a win or a loss to the record. There is meaning behind being the best team in Florida, and the Miami Heat have typically won that battle in the 35 seasons since the Orlando Magic’s inception.
Miami has 76 wins over Orlando while Orlando has 58 wins. Only 18 wins separate the two teams, which some might find surprising based on Miami’s three championship teams Orlando’s none.
In the last four seasons, the two teams have played 15 times and the Magic have only managed to win four of those games. One per season.
Beating the Heat is a big deal for the Magic. Certainly, since Dwight Howard’s departure, it has been a measuring stick for a young and hungry Orlando team.
Magic players have already expressed their anticipation for things to come at media day earlier this week. They know how much it would mean to the team, organization and fan base to grow internally into a competitive roster.
One of the first steps in getting there is handling games within the division.
If the Magic want to not only compete in their own division but in the Eastern Conference, winning games against the Heat definitely helps.
There are only 16 divisional games each season, and last year the Southeast Division had fairly even splits. The Heat clinched the division with a 10-6 record against division foes. The Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards were 8-8 and the Orlando Magic and Charlotte Hornets were 7-9.
Orlando was only a few games back. And now with Washington in full rebuild mode, that division record seems like a main focus for improvement.
Every game against the Heat will matter especially if the Magic want to do more than just reach the Play-In. After all, the Heat won the Southeast Division last year as the 7-seed entering the tournament.
Games between Orlando and Miami have been surprisingly competitive despite the lopsided results in recent years. If this were a game the NBA wanted to feature, the league has the perfect opportunity to do it when Orlando travels to Miami on Jan. 12.
On that day, ESPN will air the battle between Amen and Ausar Thompson when the Houston Rockets play the Detroit Pistons and the battle between Brandon Miller and Victor Wembanyama as the Charlotte Hornets and the San Antonio Spurs.
Paolo Banchero did not get the courtesy of getting a quality rookie matchup on national TV in his first season — Chet Holmgren’s injury had TNT pulling a November matchup between the top two picks early in the season.
The battle of the twin rookie prospects and the top two picks is plenty to entice the ESPN executives. But the game between the Magic and the Heat at this juncture in the season is likely to be more important and between better teams.
If the Magic are in the playoff conversation in January, fans will know how important this game is for their aspirations this year. Even splitting the series with Miami could have major implications in March and April when the Magic are fighting to extend their season.
This rivalry will continue to be a battle as long as Jimmy Butler is leading Miami. But the Magic are ready to take on the challenge.