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Season Series: Heat 115, Magic 106 in Orlando on Dec. 20; Heat 99, Magic 96 in Miami on Jan. 12; Tonight in Orlando; Feb. 6 in Miami
Our Record: 27-15/22-20 ATS
Everyone has been asking the question and wondering when this Orlando Magic team would be healthy. There has been a fair amount of frustration with the Magic's return to injury process as they insist on trying to get players into practices and test them physically before throwing them in. And that does not even get into the lineup and rotation questions.
But it does finally look like the Magic are going to be whole again. The injury report is the cleanest it has looked since November with only Franz Wagner (QUESTIONABLE, sprained ankle) and Gary Harris (OUT, calf strain) on the report.
That may alleviate some of the concerns of the Magic's drop in the standings. Orlando has to start getting things into high gear as they are now closer to the 9-seed than the 4-seed for the first time in months. It is about keeping pace.
The Orlando Magic also have to get over the bugaboo of their rivals in the Miami Heat. They will see Jimmy Butler for the first time this season and the Heat will have all of their offensive weapons available with Tyler Herro probable to play and Duncan Robinson available to play.
This game will come down to the Magic's depth, which should be returning to form now with Wagner likely to return and potentially a lineup change with it. And then it will come down to whether the Magic can limit the Heat's free throw attempts and ability to shoot from deep.
3 Keys to Watch
Orlando Magic fans have been waiting for some time for Franz Wagner to get back on the court. Ever since rolling his ankle against the Sacramento Kings back on Jan. 3, it has been a struggle for this team to get going as injuries and illness followed Wagner's absence.
It should be safe to say that these past two weeks will be the lowest this team feels all season. Or at least that has to be hope.
Here are the numbers since Wagner's injury (including that double-overtime loss against the Kings): The Magic went 3-6 with a 109.2 offensive rating and a 113.8 defensive rating. That -4.6 net rating was 23rd in the league during that time.
It was undoubtedly a difficult stretch for the Magic. We saw Paolo Banchero have to shoulder a lot more of the offensive burden and carry the team offensively. It has been a struggle even if Banchero has grown tremendously.
But no doubt, the Magic are missing Wagner's 20.9 points per game. The team will function better on both ends with Wagner on the floor.
Heat Seeking Depth
It is weird to think the Miami Heat are not a super deep team. They seem to pluck guys from relative obscurity. But ever since their gutsy win over the Orlando Magic a few weeks ago at Kaseya Center, the Miami Heat have struggled. Miami is just 2-2 and that includes going 1-2 since Jimmy Butler's return from a toe injury.
Some of that has to do with injuries. Jaime Jaquez Jr., who was so critical in both of Miami's wins over Orlando, will be OUT for Sunday's game with a left groin strain. He scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the game a few weeks ago in Miami with the Heat down a lot of injured players too.
So far this season, Miami is 11th in the league scoring 37.3 points per game off the bench. They have lost a lot of games from teams being able to outpace them on the bench. The Magic have the fourth highest-scoring bench in the league. And getting back their depth will only help restore this team.
Free Throw Shortage
A big part of the Orlando Magic's attack is to win the battle at the free throw line -- both getting to the line and defending without fouling. And this is undoubtedly an area that the team has struggled since Franz Wagner went out -- not that Wagner gets to theline a ton, but he puts pressure on teams and gets them out of position to force fouls.
The Magic are second in the league with a 30.2 percent free throw rate (essentially three free throws for every 10 field goal attempts). But since Wagner's injury, the Magic have a 27.5 percent free throw rate. That is a significant slip considering how small the margins are for the Magic to score.
The worst part is how the defense has slipped.
The Magic have given up a 28.2 percent free throw rate this season (again highlighting why the Magic need to get to the foul line). The Heat are good at getting to the foul line and a lot of this game will get determined on who can force their way to the line more.