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Heat’s Erik Spoelstra says he ‘respects Magic’s Steve Clifford as much as anybody’

Magic, Erik Spoelstra, Steve Clifford, Heat

On Tuesday night, the Orlando Magic are in Miami to take on the Heat. The two teams are locked an intense battle for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, making this a pivotal match-up. The Heat have been in this spot before. They have made the playoffs in eight of the last ten seasons, winning two championships in the span. For the Magic, however, this is uncharted territory. Their last postseason appearance came in 2012, and they have not finished higher than 11th since then. Their unexpected success this season has not gone unnoticed. Head coach Steve Clifford and the rest of the Magic have earned the respect of Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra. Via John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com.

Clifford spent five seasons coaching the Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets from 2013-18. He immediately changed the culture in Charlotte, drastically improving the team’s defense and leading them to the playoffs after a second-to-last-place finish the year before. He is trying to pull of the same feat in his first season with Orlando.

At 36-38, the team is only half a game behind the Heat for the final playoff spot in the East. However, the Detroit Pistons (37-36) and Brooklyn Nets (38-37) remain in striking distance as well. Between the four teams, only three will make the postseason. The remaining two and a half weeks of the season will decide the back end of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Early in the first quarter, the Magic are trailing the Heat in Miami. The winner of this important contest will hold a playoff spot with only a handful of games left to play.