Struggling Heat hope to get healthy vs. Magic
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MIAMI -- The Miami Heat have lost three straight games and has slipped from fourth to seventh in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Heat (29-24), which play host to the Orlando Magic (15-36) on Monday, play 10 of its next 14 games at American Airlines Arena.
"We didn't finish the (1-3) road trip the way we wanted to," Heat point guard Goran Dragic, who was recently added to the All-Star roster, told The Miami Herald.
"It's going to be easier (being home). At least we will see our family, sleep in our beds and try to re-energize."
Even so, the Heat have been pretty good on the road at 16-14. What they need is to be much more assertive at home, where they are just barely above .500 at 13-10.
Miami has won two straight games in its in-state rivalry against the Magic. However, dating to last season, the Magic have won four of the past six games in this series.
One problem for the Heat is the illness that left starting center Hassan Whiteside unable to play in Saturday's 111-107 loss at the Detroit Pistons on Saturday.
Without Whiteside, Miami was outrebounded 49-33 by Detroit. In addition, the Pistons scored 60 paint points and 12 second-chance points. The weakened Heat defense allowed 35 points in the fourth quarter, including 20 in the paint.
The Heat is just 9-10 when Whiteside sits, and he is questionable to play on Monday. Miami's defensive rating is a team-best 101.5 with Whiteside on the court and 105.5 without him.
"We know what the road map is," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told The Herald.
In other words, Miami needs to return to its defensive roots.
Offensively, Dragic scored a season-high 33 points against Detroit, but he needed to hoist up 23 shots to get there.
He will face a Magic team that has been out of any hope for a playoff run for weeks. The NBA trading deadline is Thursday, and the Magic will almost certainly be sellers once again.
Magic point guard Elfrid Payton, who will match up with Dragic on Monday, is one of the players who could go in a trade -- not that he seems worried.
"I feel like God always has me," Payton told The Orlando Sentinel. "So, whatever happens, it was meant to happen."
Payton, the 10th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, has failed to live up to the hype. Opposing guards have had huge games against Orlando, and that's one reason why the Magic ranks 28th in the league in field-goal percentage allowed.
The Magic has allowed 110.4 points per game, which ranks last in the Eastern Conference. In contrast, Miami has allowed 101.1 points, which ranks second in the East.
Complicating things for the Magic is their injury situation. Forward Aaron Gordon (strained left hip flexor) has missed three straight games and is almost a lock to be sidelined again on Monday. Forward Jonathan Isaac (right ankle sprain) is also a no-go on Monday, barring the unforeseen.
Updated February 4, 2018