By Stephen Nover
Magic @ Heat
I’m going to test a handicapping theory. It’s the play-against the hot team that just had their long winning streak snapped. In this case it’s fade the Miami Heat. The Heat appeared to have their lottery reservations well in order when they lost 30 of their first 41 games. But a funny thing happened on the way to crying about the glory days of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
The Heat got hot proving you should never count out the underrated coaching of Erik Spoelstra. Miami rattled off an NBA-high 13-game win streak, longest in league history for a sub-.500 team. The historic streak ended this past Saturday when the 76ers took advantage of a flat Miami road performance to beat the Heat, 117-109. Miami committed 20 turnovers and had just 15 assists in the loss. Now the Heat return to South Florida perhaps missing Dion Waiters for a fourth straight game due to a ankle injury.
The team’s third-leading scorer is questionable. So there very well could be a lingering deflation for the Heat. Waiters would be missed because he’s the only other respectable scoring threat besides Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside. The catch in going against the Heat in this spot is backing the Magic, losers of 12 of their last 15. This is a sure-fire lottery team, devoid of hope dragging into All-Star break with shot morale and daily trade rumors suggesting a thorough housecleaning.
Frank Vogel hasn’t fixed Orlando’s defense, which ranks 20th and 24th in defensive field goal percentage. The Magic just surrendered 112 points in a 32-point road loss to the Mavericks this past Saturday. Dallas happens to be the lowest-scoring team in the NBA averaging 98.2 points. Miami is averaging 112.3 points in its last eight games. That would rank third in the NBA if compounded during the entire season. The Heat still have averaged 107.6 points during their last three games minus Waiters.
At least the Magic should be highly motivated, right? They off an embarrassing loss in which their effort was questioned and now play their in-state rival. The Magic have the big men with Serge Ibaka and Nikola Vucevic to keep Whiteside from going crazy.
The Magic also are 11-6 ATS when catching seven or more points. So let’s give the theory a test.