NBA Eastern Conference Picks: Miami Heat at Orlando Magic

Aaron Gordon is likely out for the season after sustaining a concussion in Orlando's loss to the Detroit Pistons.
Aaron Gordon is likely out for the season after sustaining a concussion in Orlando’s loss to the Detroit Pistons.

Miami Heat at Orlando Magic
Time: 6 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: ORL -1
Total: 207.5

Betting Odds c/o 5dimes

The Miami Heat are seeing a reoccurring theme from last season, if Chris Bosh’s repeated run ins with blood clots can be called that, anyway. Bosh has resumed basketball activities, but there is still no timeline on his return. The Heat have not slowed its pursuit of the playoffs though, having clinched a postseason berth, possessing a 46-32 record with just four games remaining.

The Heat have not slowed its pursuit of the playoffs though, having clinched a postseason berth, possessing a 46-32 record with just four games remaining. The Heat are currently just a half game behind No. 3 seeded Atlanta, and Miami has won seven of its past 10 games.

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The Orlando Magic are essentially playing for nothing, but the team has played good ball lately. Orlando has won four of its past six games. Orlando is also 21-18 at the Amway Center where it will host the Heat. The Magic are 1-point favorites in the game which will air at 6 PM Central on NBA League Pass.

The Magic most recently fell 108-104 to the Detroit Pistons, but the real loss there was that Aaron Gordon suffered a concussion which may be the end of his season. He could reasonably recover in time, but with the Magic eliminated from the postseason there is absolutely no rush to get Gordon back on the court. He has evolved to be Orlando’s most intriguing player as a power forward with insane athleticism to cover his 6’9” stature.

Gordon has started to come into his own as an NBA player, and it is clear the game has “slowed down” for him quite a bit. The previously ill-advised jumpers have abated, and the threes he does take are all within the flow of the offense, hardly ever forced. That has been the biggest change in Gordon’s game, that he is letting the offense come to him while focusing on doing the little things like offensive rebounding and aggressive defense.

Magic center Nikola Vucevic will return to the starting lineup tonight after playing his first three games back from injury off the bench. Vucevic played extremely well in the role, but he is Orlando’s best player and rightfully belongs in the starting lineup. The biggest takeaway from his injury may be that the Magic can weather such a loss.

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Dewayne Dedmon played some stellar ball, and one need look no further than his 18 point, 15 rebound game against the Chicago Bulls for proof of what he can be. Vucevic, nevertheless, gives Orlando a scoring option that can be relied on late in games. The pick and roll with Victor Oladipo remains Orlando’s most effective play and is the bread and butter late in games when the Magic need to execute late in shot clock sequences. Between Dedmon’s solid play and the usually reliable Jason Smith, the Magic did look surprisingly competitive without its leading scorer.

Even so, the Magic are a team at a cross roads. They parted ways with Tobias Harris at the trade deadline, in the name of shedding salary to chase a free agent this summer. If Orlando strikes out on all the big names, the loss of Harris could end up being a mostly lateral move. Names surrounding the vacancy include Harris Barnes, DeMar

Names surrounding the vacancy include Harris Barnes, DeMar DeRozan and Chandler Parsons, meanwhile Harris is providing valuable scoring for the Detroit Pistons right now.

Magic GM Rob Hennigan clearly just felt that with Harris the Magic were not going to get over the proverbial hump, so it was time to chase a potentially transcending talent. Championships and even just quantum leaps in the standings are made by incorporating talents who are about to make a huge leap in production.

That was the notion of signing Tracy McGrady at one point in team history, and it is what has the Lakers chasing DeRozan. Is he the most likely to become a true No. 1 option. Of course, the Magic will also be able to explore adding its franchise talent through a trade or two.

The Heat have won three of its past four games, with victories over the Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons and Sacramento Kings (and a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers). In the 106-98 victory over the struggling Bulls, all five Heat starters scored in double figures, led by Dwyane Wade’s 21 points on 9 of 18 shooting.

Miami shot 48 percent from the floor and 14 of 17 from the line while turning the ball over just 10 times. The Heat got 16 points and 12 rebounds off the bench from center Hassan Whiteside, who fouled out in 27 minutes of play.

Miami has been starting Amar’e Stoudemire at center with mixed results, but Miami has a pretty tight rotation which features nothing but plus-defenders, outside of Stoudemire (and perhaps Goran Dragic, too).

The Heat are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, but without Chris Bosh the team is oddly reliant on two aged players in Stoudemire and recently-acquired Joe Johnson. Johnson shot 7 of 10 from the field for 17 points in the win over Chicago, and he is averaging 13.8 points on 57.5 percent shooting in the month of April.

With Miami losing Bosh, at least for the moment, Johnson is perhaps the one element that can give the Heat just enough offense to get out of the first round at least. Any prospects beyond that were already a little bleak to begin with.

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