Weekend Watch List: Halfway point shows postseason promise for Florida teams
It’s the halfway point of the season for Florida’s NBA and NHL teams.
In the NHL, the Tampa Bay Lightning appear to be a lock for a playoff berth, while the Florida Panthers have recovered from a slow start to pull into wild-card contention as they move into the season’s second half.
In the NBA, the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic have had their ups and downs, but in a weak Eastern Conference there’s plenty of time to pull things together and move up in the standings.
Here’s a closer look at what to watch for this weekend…
FRIDAY, JAN. 16
NBA — Grizzlies at Magic, 7 p.m. ET (FOX Sports Florida)
NBA — Heat at Kings, 10 p.m. ET (Sun Sports)
Spotlight: The Miami Heat end their five-game road trip on Friday with a visit to Sacramento to take on the Kings. Although it’s their first matchup of the season, the Heat and the Kings share some familiar territory. Miami assistant coach Keith Smart was the head coach of the Kings for just under two seasons. He was fired in May 2013. Sacramento drafted center Hassan Whiteside in 2010, but he saw little playing time in two seasons. Now that both former Kings are returning wearing Heat colors, fans will be seeing a different side of Whiteside, who scored 10 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in his first start with Miami against the Warriors on Wednesday.
SATURDAY, JAN. 17
CBK — NC State at FSU, 1:30 p.m. ET
CBK — Miami at Notre Dame, 2 p.m. ET
CBK — Florida at Georgia, 2 p.m. ET
NHL — Oilers at Panthers, 7 p.m. ET (FOX Sports Florida)
NHL — Avalanche at Lightning, 7 p.m. ET (Sun Sports)
Spotlight: The Panthers rank ninth in the Eastern Conference but gained some momentum during a recently concluded six-game road trip in which they went 4-2. One of the victories came against Saturday’s opponent, the Edmonton Oilers. Tomas Kopecky, Jimmy Hayes, Brian Campbell and Sean Bergenheim each scored for the Panthers, while Roberto Luongo made 31 saves in a 4-2 victory over the Oilers on Jan. 11.
SUNDAY, JAN. 18
NBA — Thunder at Magic, 6 p.m. ET (FOX Sports Florida)
Spotlight: The Orlando Magic have proven that they’re not a team to underestimate. After losing six straight games and dropping to 13-27, the Magic turned things around with back-to-back victories over the Chicago Bulls (121-114) and Houston Rockets (120-113) earlier this week. It was the first time they scored 120-plus points in consecutive games since February 1996. On Sunday, they take on Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder for the first time this season.
NEWS OF NOTES
— Florida State junior defensive tackle Eddie Goldman became the most recent Seminole to declare for the 2015 NFL draft on Wednesday, joining Jameis Winston, Mario Edwards Jr., P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby.
— Dwyane Wade left Tuesday night’s game late in the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers with a left hamstring strain. Wade missed nine games last season with a strained right hamstring and missed seven games this past November with another left hamstring injury.
— According to a Miami Herald report, right-hander Dan Haren will report to Miami Marlins spring training in February in Jupiter, Florida. Haren was part of the Dee Gordon trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the 34-year-old would still prefer to be traded to a team on the West Coast due to his family obligations in southern California.
— Miami Dolphins guard Mike Pouncey was added to the 2015 Pro Bowl as an injury replacement for San Francisco 49ers guard Mike Iupati. This will be Pouncey’s second consecutive appearance in the Pro Bowl.
— The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hired former Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. Tampa Bay and Lovie Smith began their search for a new offensive coordinator when the Bucs finished their season with an unsettling 2-14 record.
TWEET(S) OF THE WEEK
When the Magic scored 120 points over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, fans took to social media to express their enthusiasm.
— David Baumann (@DavidBaumannORL) January 15, 2015
Another stunning victory last night! Magic 120-113 Rockets, Vic with 32. Grass isn’t always greener Mr Howard😜
— Orlando Magic UK (@OrlandoMagicUK) January 15, 2015
Dwight Howard when the Rockets lose to the Magic… pic.twitter.com/v5uSCIKzi1
— SportsNation (@SportsNation) January 15, 2015
The Magic Rockets game this morning was EPIC. Was one of the best Iv ever seen them play. Beating Howard is just pure bliss. MAGIC PRIDE
— Leanne Olliffe (@LeeLee2601) January 15, 2015
— SideLeague (@SideLeague) January 15, 2015