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Merril: Magic vs. Heat Handicapping

Steve Merril’s NBA Fullcourt Report

Below is a look at the most important NBA game in the Eastern Conference tonight.

Orlando Magic (-3, 194) at Miami Heat – 7:35 pm ET

Playoff Positioning

The Magic have clinched the Southeast division title and a top three seed in the upcoming playoffs; however Orlando is still battling with the Boston Celtics for the overall #2 seed and home court advantage in a probable second-round matchup.Orlando is currently a half-game behind the Celtics, but Orlando does have three more games remaining than Boston as the Magic have ten regular season games still on the schedule, while Boston has just seven games left.

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Miami is currently fifth in the Eastern Conference and 1½ games ahead of Philadelphia. The Heat still have a chance at home court in the first round, but must catch Atlanta as the Hawks currently stand 3½ games ahead with eight games remaining, while Miami has nine regular season games left on their schedule.

Home Court Advantage

The Heat have exhibited an extreme home-road dichotomy as they currently stand 26-11 SU at home, compared to just 13-23 SU on the road this season, however the strong home record has not translated into pointspread success as the Heat are only 18-19 ATS in those 37 home games. Miami’s average margin of victory at home this season is just +4.3 points per game, but the Heat might receive an extra boost of energy tonight as there will be a pregame ceremony to retire Alonzo Mourning’s jersey #33.

Pointspread Machine

Orlando has been a pointspread machine the past two seasons under head coach Stan Van Gundy as the Magic stand 102-60 (63%) ATS in all games for a profit of +36.0 nets units. The Magic are 71-46 ATS as a favorite and 31-14 ATS as an underdog and have been most profitable on the road with a fantastic 54-28 ATS record away from home.

Recent Meetings

Orlando is currently dominating this in-state rivalry with a 6-1 SU record during the past two seasons. The home team is a perfect 3-0 SU/ATS in all three meetings this season as Orlando won the first matchup 86-76 on January 2nd as an 8½-point home favorite, but then lost the rematch at Miami 103-97 on January 24th as a 7½-point road favorite. Orlando did get their revenge on February 22nd with an easy 122-99 home win as a 9-point favorite.

Dwyane Wade

The one constant in all three meetings this year has been the greatness of Miami’s Dwyane Wade who has averaged nearly 37 points per game, including a 50-point performance in the most recent meeting. In fact, it was the first time in the past 14 years that a player scored 50+ points while his team lost by 20+ points. Wade has scored at least 32 points or more in seven of his last nine games versus the Magic which is a concern for Orlando head coach Stan Van Gundy.

“My concern is when Dwyane goes into the Hall of Fame and they start putting off his top career games, it’s going to be like 50 versus Orlando… we’re going to fill up the entire screen”, said Van Gundy. “So, I don’t know what to tell you. When I coached Dwyane I really liked him, but I’m not so sure anymore. Our relationship is strained.”

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