The Magic (34.1 percent) has several legitimate long-range shooters, but Dennis Scott (147 treys made) and Nick Anderson (143) are the main ones. Their numbers are down this year, but both are streaky and thus always dangerous. The Heat (36.4 percent) also is prolific from behind the arc. Tim Hardaway rained down 203, and Voshon Lenard had 183. Jamal Mashburn, Dan Majerle and Keith Askins also can hit them with consistency. EDGE: Miami.
Miami has a formidable frontline with Alonzo Mourning, P.J. Brown and reserve center Isaac Austin, who are all physical and aggressive players. But the Heat gets only adequate production from everyone else. Orlando not only gets boards from its frontline of Rony Seikaly and Horace Grant, but also from Penny Hardaway (263 rebounds in 59 games played), Anderson (304 rebounds), reserve guard Brian Shaw (194) and reserve forward Derek Strong (519). EDGE: Orlando.
Even Magic coach Richie Adubato conceded that Miami, ranked third in points allowed (89.3 per game) and second in opponents' field goal percentage (43.2), might be the best defensive team in the league. They are aggressive, physical and relentless, pressuring teams from the opening tip. Orlando isn't bad, either, but not nearly as consistent. If Grant's wrist and back keep him from playing significant minutes, Orlando's defense will noticeably suffer. EDGE: Miami.
Orlando's bench is tested and has played well when called upon, particularly Strong and Shaw, who may be the team's best passer. The Magic's biggest weakness is no low-post presence when Seikaly goes out. Miami has one of the league's best sixth men in Austin (9.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg), who played admirably when Mourning missed 16 games with a foot injury. Majerle (10.8 ppg) is a playoff-experienced veteran who helps his team on both ends of the floor. EDGE: ORLANDO.
Riley is arguably the most respected mind in the game. He has won four NBA titles and taken his team to the playoffs in each of his 14 seasons, and he has taken this vagabond Heat team farther than most people thought possible. Adubato's loose style has invigorated the Magic and motivated the team to play some of its best basketball. EDGE: Miami.
The playoffs are nothing new to either team, although Orlando has had far more success, reaching the NBA Finals two years ago and the conference finals last season. Things couldn't be more even, what with the season series tied at 2-2 and the all-time series tied at 16-16. But when push comes to shove, you've got to figure Riley will find a way for his team to win, providing injuries don't decide it for him.
_ DARRELL FRY