The Heat have a tall task in front of them on Friday night.
Although Miami’s record (27-22) is better than the visiting Magic (19-29), Orlando does have a small height advantage over Miami.
The Magic feature 7-foot-2 forward Bol Bol, the tallest player on either team, as well as 7-foot center Mo Bamba and 6-foot-10 rookie forward Paolo Banchero, while the Heat typically feature a smaller lineup.
Orlando is bringing in 42.6 rebounds per game, which is 19th in the league. But Miami ranks 26th with 41.6 per game. Wendell Carter Jr., a 6-foot-10 forward, leads the Magic with 8.7 rebounds a game. Bol and Banchero are both averaging more than six rebounds.
Despite the minor disadvantage, the Heat have a plan for working around the Magic’s height.
“Make sure our passes our crisp, make sure everybody’s … locked in, knowing that their length, it could be a problem,” Heat center Bam Adebayo said. “Being able to just be aware of everything that they have going on and try to take advantage of them in transition when they can’t load and when they pack the paint and everybody stretches their arms up. Basically, finding manipulation plays in transition.”
Both Miami and Orlando are playing well lately. The Magic have won three of their last four games, while the Heat are 7-3 in their last 10.
“We’ve just been (paying) more attention to detail,” guard Gabe Vincent said. “We’ve been playing harder, playing more together.”
Martin, Strus, Highsmith likely to play
Star forward Jimmy Butler was not listed on the Heat’s injury report on Thursday, and several other players also appear likely to play against Orlando.
Forward Caleb Martin (left quad strain), guard Max Strus (right shoulder irritation) and forward Haywood Highsmith (left shin contusion) were all listed as probable.
Strus played 37 minutes against Boston on Tuesday, while Highsmith played 30 minutes and Martin 11.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the three players listed as out for Friday’s game — forward Nikola Jovic (lower back stress reaction), guard Duncan Robinson (finger surgery) and center Omer Yurtseven (left ankle surgery) — are feeling better. However, he did say all three have to be patient with their recoveries.
“I don’t want for them to think about trying to fast-track it right now,” Spoelstra said. “They have pitch counts on each one of them. They have to be very disciplined and not try to rush that process, especially as you get to this stage. That’s really important. But I know that they feel better, being able to do a little bit more and being around the group.”
Spoelstra praises ‘impressive’ FAU
An hour north of Miami-Dade Arena, South Florida features one of the hottest college basketball teams in the nation.
Florida Atlantic has won 18 consecutive games entering their Thursday night matchup with Middle Tennessee State, earning a spot in the Associated Press poll for the first time in program history.
Spoelstra said he hadn’t been following the Owls closely, but he had heard about their winning streak.
“That’s always impressive,” Spoelstra said. “It’s not the easiest place to win. Whatever they’re doing there to build that culture and philosophy, all of that, it’s showing itself this year. That’s fun. You root for the local teams.”