(Photo Credit: Fernando Medina)
The Miami HEAT wrap up their four-game road trip at the Amway Center where they take on the Orlando Magic. The HEAT have lost two straight and are 20-7 on the season. The Magic are on a five-game losing streak and are 12-18. Tip off is set for 5 PM. Coverage starts on Sun Sports at 4:30 PM.1. The Magic were one of the league’s best stories heading into the first week of December, but have since lost five straight. What happened?
Couper Moorhead: Most of it is simply natural regression, even though the Magic didn’t necessarily shoot better from deep or play better defense in November. Jacque Vaughn has been an exceptional coach so far, but it’s tough to keep a team overachieving throughout an 82-game season – which is not to say this team couldn’t find its way again. Not having Glen Davis around since the 19th
to simply create shots has hurt as, but in the end it’s not a bad thing for Orlando to lose. There is no way to land on two feet trading a player such as Dwight Howard, and the natural path is to take a few steps back, maximize the value of your draft picks and then look ahead. If can do that with excellent coaching leadership and players competing every night, there’s not much else you can ask for.
Danny Martinez: Orlando had a top-10 offense through the middle of December, but they’ve hit the skids recently. Over their last five games, all losses, the Magic are giving up over 112 points per 100 possessions. That slip explains the losing streak. Their offense hasn’t been above average all season long, but the defense was winning them games. To snap their skid, the Magic will need the stout defense to return.2. If you were Orlando, how willing would you be to trade J.J. Redick?
Couper: This will be a big story around the league come the trade deadline since Redick is a free agent this summer. Most people will say that Orlando should just get whatever they can – which is entirely logical and appropriate – but it isn’t as cut and dry as that. For one, there’s no saying what exactly the market is offering and the Magic might be better served holding onto Redick and being in place for a sign-and-trade this summer, as they did recently with Ryan Anderson, but the best move might be to see if Redick has any interest in returning. It’s tough to talk veterans into rebuilding projects, but Redick is the type of player I would want to hold on for the long haul, especially as the team only gets younger.
Danny: J.J. Redick is a very attractive player to numerous contenders and playoff teams. He’s a lights out shooter and is more than capable of creating for others. Redick is in the last year of his contract and a long-term deal is probably not in the cards. If I were Orlando, I’d have my ears open. Some combination of young talent plus draft picks would certainly pique my interest.3. What was missing from Miami’s losses to Detroit and Milwaukee?
Couper: Will Bynum and the rest of Detroit’s perimeter players got hot in the first game and the Bucks guards terrorized the passing lanes in the second, forcing all sorts of uncharacteristic Miami turnovers, but the staple of most of the HEAT’s disappointing losses over the last few years is that they’ve featured slow, ineffective interior rotations. For the HEAT to be aggressive in the passing lanes and not use many shotblockers in their lineups, they have to play strong positional defense in the middle of the floor. It may not seem like they’re getting hurt as much in the paint when those off-dribble jumpers from Bynum are falling, but it’s the basic dunks and layups that keep a team like Detroit in position to win with a nice boost of the uncommon.
Danny: The defensive rotations that were clicking against Oklahoma City were absent. The Bucks and Pistons were each able to get easy baskets in the paint at a high rate. The schedule probably had something to do with that, with the HEAT playing four games in five days. Also, the absence of Udonis Haslem in the Milwaukee game didn’t help. The backline and help defense played the last two games is a concern, but the HEAT have shown the last few years that they have the ability to autocorrect midstream. A day off, a little extra effort and the return of Haslem should all help.