The Miami Heat faced Orlando on Saturday in their 3rd matchup of the year. One main differentiating factor from previous matchups, the play of Meyers Leonard.
As the Miami Heat got set to face their divisional and in-state rivals, the Orlando Magic, on Saturday night, there were a few things in mind more than any other. The first is that they had been on four days rest since they had last played, so they were expected to come out rejuvenated and rested, “training camp ready” as Coach Spo referred to it as.
The second thing is that we knew that they would be amped and fired up about playing. This is a multidimensional factor all in itself, with the main underlying dimension being that the Miami Heat had just beaten them less than a week prior in what was the last game played by the Magic and the game immediately prior to the last game played for the Miami Heat.
As we also mentioned, this is a matchup that is always highly contested, is between two familiar foes due to proximity and divisional factors, and lastly because they always play some of their best games against each other every season.
It was indeed a good contest, although the Miami Heat exerted their will throughout. There were two main factors that contributed to a Heat win and subsequently, a Magic loss on Saturday though. The Miami Heat got their X-Factor and the Magic didn’t.
The Miami Heat got 23 points on 7-12 field goals and 6-10 shooting from deep from Tyler Herro. The Orlando Magic didn’t get anything from a guy who usually flames on when facing the Heat in Terrence Ross, who only had six points on 2-11 field goals made and 1-3 from deep.
In fact, the Miami Heat had two of those special contributions though. The one that hasn’t been mentioned yet is the one that could have an unequivocal impact on the rest of the Miami Heat’s season and their postseason outlook.
This player is Meyers Leonard. In the midst of a stretch where the Miami Heat haven’t been outstanding on defense and just as poor on the glass, looking for options, and possibly players in the trade market, Meyers Leonard stepped up in a big way. Leonard finished Saturday’s night game with 18 points, 14 rebounds, and an assist.
At one point, we joked that Meyers Leonard was playing as though he had been keeping up with the trade rumors. The Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs have been linked as far as both DeMar DeRozan‘s and more specifically here, LaMarcus Aldridge‘s futures go.
Not only was Leonard’s play Saturday night amazing, needed, and revealing, but it could be the key to ultimate success in the future for the Miami Heat. Meyers Leonard has shown what he can do in the past, think back to the Blazers playoff series against Golden State from last season, and has once again shown it on Saturday.
This should now be the expectation for Leonard because it is needed and he clearly can do it. It’s not as if he was up against chopped liver with Nikola Vucevic on the other side. That is why he just might be the key to unlocking the Miami Heat’s full potential.