Game Preview: Magic vs Pacers

The Magic return to the friendly confines of the Amway Arena to take on the Indiana Pacers.

Indiana Pacers vs. Orlando Magic

Saturday, March 15th , 2008

Records: Indiana- 25-40, 4th place in the Central division. Orlando- 43-24, 1st place in the Southeast division. Indiana on the road- 12-22; Orlando at home- 20-12

The Magic return to the friendly confines of the Amway Arena to take on the Indiana Pacers. This is the third and final meeting between the two clubs, as each team has won on the other's home court. The Pacers hold a 39-30 edge in the all time regular season series between the two teams. .

The Pacers like to play an up tempo, high octane type of game as evidenced by their scoring average of 102.9 ppg. (7th in the NBA). Indiana is led in scoring by the versatile Mike Dunleavy, Jr. who averages 17.8 points per game. In the middle, the Pacers are small without center Jermaine O'Neal who is sidelined by an undisclosed knee injury. Indiana currently fields a starting lineup of outside shooters in Dunleavy, forward Danny Granger, guards Kareem Rush and Jamaal Tinsley, and center Troy Murphy. Orlando's big men must stay home on everyone on the court, as any of the Pacers starting five can shoot the three.

Statistically speaking
The Pacers are 7th in the league in points scored (103.0 ppg.), 25th in field goal percentage (44.11%), 16th in adjusted field goal percentage (49%), 13th in three point shooting (37%), 9th in free throw percentage (77.01%), 12th in field goal percentage allowed (45.27%), 28th in opponents scoring (105.4 ppg.), 30th in opponents three point shooting (39%), 11th in steals (7.5/gm.), 27th turnovers (15.1/gm.), T10th in blocked shots (5.0/gm.), 7th in rebounding (43.4/gm.), and 8th in assists (22.7/gm.).

Here's how Orlando matches up: 6th scoring (104.8 ppg.), 5th FG % (47.37%), 2nd in adjusted FG% (53%), 5th three point shooting (38%), 23rd FT% (72.54%), 8th FG% allowed (44.89%), 16th opponents scoring (100.2 ppg.), 15th opponents three point shooting (36%), 26th steals (6.2/gm.), 14th turnovers (14./gm.), 25th in blocked shots (4.2/gm.), 13th in rebounding (42.2/gm.), and 24th in assists (20.3/gm.).

What do the stats say?
The Pacers love to run the ball up the court, but they are slow with their defensive rotations and don't guard the three-point line well at all. They rebound well for a small team and shoot well from the outside.

Best matchup for Indiana: Danny Granger vs. Rashard Lewis- Granger may be one of the best players in the NBA without major notoriety. He's a highly discounted version of the Magic's Lewis, as he can basically do the same things–shoot the three, slash, handle the ball, and post up– with a little bit of defense. Lewis has been playing better defense of late, and he must bring his A game defensively, or the very talented Granger, who incidentally earns about 10% of Lewis' salary, will overshadow him. Granger is averaging 28 points per game against the Magic this season.

Best matchup for Orlando: Dwight Howard vs. Troy Murphy- Although Murphy may will keep Howard away from the basket on the defensive end, Murphy will get used and abused in the post by the Magic's big man. In the last meeting between these two teams, Howard is averaging 27.5 ppg. and 13.5 rpg. against the Pacers this year.

Keys to a Magic victory:
1. Make it a half court game. The Pacers like to run and aren't nearly as effective in the half court sets. If Orlando can "ugly it up," they should be able to take advantage of the Pacers lack of size and defense in the paint.

2. Make the three, don't give up the three. The Pacers don't guard the outside well at all, but they can shoot from distance. The Magic must rotate quickly on defense and take advantage of all the open shots that they're likely to get on offense.

3. Force turnovers, don't commit turnovers. It sounds simple, because it is. When Orlando doesn't make unforced errors they are a very good offensive team. They must execute against the run and gun Pacers.

Final thoughts: This game should come down to the final few minutes, as both of these teams can score in bunches, and both teams will let their opponents back in games. If Dwight Howard can make a solid percentage of his free throws, Orlando will be able to execute down the stretch. If not, the home team could be in for a letdown.