Kevin C. Cox
Most people expected Miami to be near the top of the NBA through the first quarter of the season, but few thought Orlando would be anywhere near .500.
After Dwight Howard finally forced his way out of town over the summer, the Magic were left for dead by nearly every observer in the NBA. Instead, a feisty group lead by first-year head coach Jacque Vaughn has Orlando at 12-13. Ironically enough, they currently have a better record than the Lakers, Howard's new team.
The Magic are currently on a four-game winning stream, beating the Warriors, Bobcats, Wolves and Wizards over the last week. Even with Al Harrington and Hedo Turkoglu on the disabled list, they've been winning games behind a veteran core of Arron Afflalo, J.J. Redick, Glen Davis and Jameer Nelson.
The Heat, meanwhile, are coming off home-court shellackings of the Wizards and Wolves. They play in Dallas on Thursday night in a rematch of the 2011 NBA Finals.
As it stands now, Orlando is only one game out of a potential first-round series against Miami, something no one would have predicted two months ago.