Heat vs. Magic: Orlando gets 2nd crack at stopping the streak

USA TODAY Sports

After missing out on a slim chance to down the Miami Heat almost three weeks ago, the Orlando Magic will get their second shot at the Heat's streak on Monday.

Nearly three weeks ago, the Miami Heat's streak stood at 15 games. Just as the Denver Nuggets on Saturday hit their own 15-game winning streak, it was impressive but not unimaginable.

But at present, the Heat's winning streak is still going strong.

At 26 victories in a row, Miami heads to Orlando where on Monday it'll face an Orlando Magic team that has seen the vulnerabilities of the defending NBA champions.

At the same time, the Magic have seen why the streak is still alive.

LeBron James and his crew squandered a 20-point lead quite quickly against the Magic back on March 6, and Miami needed the King to squeak past DeQuan Jones for a bucket with three seconds left to win, 97-96. The Heat have dealt with other close calls, but they haven't slowed down since that meeting.

It'll be hard to argue they will, even with the game in Orlando. Still, no game is "no big deal" for the Heat.

The Magic are without leading scorer Arron Afflalo (16.5 points per game) because of a torn hamstring and leading rebounder Nikola Vucevic (11.5 rebounds per game), who didn't appear at shootaround because of a concussion on Monday morning. The injury to Vucevic could be the biggest issue for Orlando, as the second-year center has season averages of 22.5 points and 25 rebounds per game in two outings against the Heat.

Miami, however, could be without Dwyane Wade, who sat on Sunday as the Heat rolled the Charlotte Bobcats, 109-77. Wade is dealing with a sore right knee.

Either way, the Magic will be the highly regarding underdogs despite their history of playing Miami close this season. In a Dec. 24 meeting between the two squads this season, Orlando fell by two points after forcing overtime. Of course, the key in the series has been Vucevic, and his absence opens the door for opportunities for others.

Stopping history in the making

The Magic have played the Heat close this year because of their inside play. It's well documented that Miami's most notable weakness comes in the rebounding department -- a reason why Vucevic has seen so much success against the NBA's best team this year.

So who will step up?

Rookie big man Kyle O'Quinn could leave a big mark on the game. So too could small forwards Tobias Harris and Moe Harkless. Harris has averaged 13.3 points in his last 10 games and is making the most out of his opportunity since being traded from the Milwaukee Bucks. Meanwhile, Harkless has scored upwards of 20 points in two of his last five games.

Time: 7 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN / Watch ESPN

Odds: The Heat opened as 12.5-point favorites.

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