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Miami Heat vs. Orlando Magic: Preview, Analysis and Predictions

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Miami Heat vs. Orlando Magic: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

In a battle between in-state rivals, the Miami Heat will take on the Orlando Magic. This will be the third of a four-game season series.

So who will emerge victorious with Miami's legendary 26-game winning streak on the line?

Entering the game, the Heat are 55-14 overall and 23-11 on the road. As previously stated, they've won 26 games in a row.

As for Orlando, they're 18-52 overall and 10-26 at home. They've won just six of their past 45 games and two of their past 13.

As we all know, however, rivalry games throw records out of the window.

 

Time: Monday, March 25 at 7:00 p.m. EDT

TV: ESPN

Records: Miami Heat (55-14, 23-11 road) at Orlando Magic (18-52, 10-26 home)

Betting Line: Heat (-13)

 

Miami Heat Injury Report

Dwyane Wade, Sore Right Knee, Questionable

 

Orlando Magic Injury Report

Arron Afflalo, Right Hamstring Strain, Out

Glen Davis, Fractured Fifth Metatarsal, Out

Hedo Turkoglu, Suspension, Out

Nikola Vucevic, Concussion, Questionable

 

Key Storyline: Preserving the Streak

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Entering their March 25 game against the Orlando Magic, the Miami Heat have won 26 consecutive games. They're now seven games away from the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers' NBA record of 33 straight victories.

Can they take down their rivals to make it 27 straight wins?

This won't be as easy a task as the records may suggest. After all, these two teams have already played twice in 2012-13.

Miami's average margin of victory in those games is 1.5 points—a 112-110 overtime win and a 97-96 regulation victory.

In other words, the Heat are unlikely to run away with this win as the numbers might suggest they would. In fact, we're more likely to see a game that comes down to the wire.

After all, what's better for a young team than a streak-ending victory over their in-state rivals?

 

Key Matchup: Tobias Harris vs. Udonis Haslem

USA TODAY Sports

After facing a slew of injuries and rotational shake-ups, it appeared as if head coach Jacque Vaughn had found one that works. With Arron Afflalo at the 2, Maurice Harkless at the 3 and Tobias Harris at the 4, Orlando experienced significant success.

Unfortunately, Afflalo has now gone down with a season-ending injury—even still, we're inclined to believe it will be Harris at the 4.

In his most recent game, Harris pulled down 15 rebounds while matched up against Serge Ibaka and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Two games prior, he picked up nine rebounds.

Matched up against Miami's lone source of consistent rebounding, Udonis Haslem, it will be on Harris to continue his dominance of the glass.

Haslem has proven more than capable of crashing the boards on both ends of the floor. If the Magic plan on winning this game, it's up to Harris to outproduce him in that regard.

Allowing Miami to capitalize on second chance scoring opportunities is the perfect way to lose this game.

 

X-Factor: Maurice Harkless, Orlando Magic

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The last time Maurice Harkless played, he was tasked with going toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant. Harkless responded by posting 25 points, nine rebounds, four steals and four blocks.

Next up is LeBron James.

Harkless doesn't need to duplicate that production, but he'll need something close to it. The question is, how will he fare when tasked with defending and scoring on the frontrunner for the NBA MVP award?

That will determine the outcome of this game.

Harkless is more than capable of competing athletically. Furthermore, his recent string of production suggests he will perform at a high level.

Over his past five games, Harkless is averaging 16.2 points, 6.8 points, 3.8 steals and 1.4 blocks on a slash line of .493/.467/.500.

 

Prediction

This one isn't going to be easy, no matter what the records suggest. Instead, we'll be seeing a battle with two teams that have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Miami has a record to create and Orlando has a rival to sink—does it get any better than this?

Who will win?

Submit Vote vote to see results

The first time these two teams met, Miami won 112-110 over the Magic in overtime. The second time around—a game on March 6—Miami won 97-96.

Don't be foolish enough to assume this will be a blowout.

Orlando will keep this close due to their ability to dominate the glass. It just so happens that the Heat are dead last in rebounds per game.

Unfortunately, that won't be enough.

Maurice Harkless will continue to play well, but there will be no answer for LeBron James. With elite shooters surrounding him, LeBron will continue to attack defenses that simply cannot afford to collapse their perimeter.

It will be tough, but a win nonetheless.

Miami Heat 102, Orlando Magic 100

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