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A tale of two games. It's incredible how two teams that haven't changed their roster in the slightest can play two completely different games in the span of three weeks.
This is exactly what happened between the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat in the month of February. When the two teams met up the first time at the Amway Center on Feb. 8, the Magic held the Heat to 89 points in arguably Miami's worst game of the season. The Magic scored 102 points in the win thanks in part to 17 three-pointers, five alone from Ryan Anderson who led all scorers with 27 points.
The three-point shooting supported the Magic for most of the way, but Dwight Howard soon made his presence felt. Howard gave us a clear reason as to why he's the best center in the league after dominating numerous Heat centers on his way to 25 points, 24 rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
Dwyane Wade had 33 points, but LeBron James and Chris Bosh only combined for 29 on 10-for-28 shooting.
However, the Heat would look towards a home game on Feb. 19, not even two weeks after the initial meeting. Somehow, it became a completely different story as the Magic were suddenly cold from the perimeter and Howard couldn't get into any sort of rhythm. After yielding 102 points in the first meeting, the Heat allowed the Magic to score 78 points on 37 percent shooting. The Magic had a better three-point percentage.
Wade had 27 and James had 25 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in the easy win, but it was the Heat's defense on Howard that allowed them to win with ease. The All-Star only had 12 points and 15 rebounds while missing on eight of his ten free throw attempts. The Magic as a whole went 13-for-25 from the foul line.
The significance of these matchups between the Heat and Magic is to observe how well Miami can play a team with a dominant center. There's no better way to gauge that then facing off against the league's top center in Howard, a behemoth who's currently averaging 20 points and a league leading 15 boards per game.
The Heat have had varied results when guarding Howard. They'll either get the best or worst out of him with Miami seeing both sides of Dwight in the span of two weeks. It's tough for the Heat to defend Howard when they have a 6'9" center starting out on him, but aggressive help defense, physicality and denying entry passes usually mean the Heat can limit Dwight and therefore keep the game at their tempo.