Indiana Pacers @ Orlando Magic
Wednesday, January 20
7:00 PM EST
Although the Pacers beat the Magic 97-90 in a rather quick-paced game (98 possessions) two weeks ago in Indianapolis, neither team took a lot of threes — at least not by their standards. The Pacers average 22.0 3PAs per game (6th highest in the NBA) but only took 16 (and only made a pedestrian 5). Orlando averages a league-high 28.5 3PAs per game, but “only” took 22 (and made 9, which while a ton, is just under how many they expect to make each night).
You would think that when two “live by the three, die by the three” squads meet up, we would see a total shootout. But that wasn’t the case here. And seeing that Orlando definitely “lived by the three” by both being more accurate from distance and scoring a higher percentage (30%) of their points on threes, you would think that the Magic would have won.
So how did the Pacers win with such relative ease over one of the four or five teams that most experts think can actually win the title this year?
They played good defense (Orlando shot 38.4%), didn’t foul as much as usual (24 FTAs vs. the 30 they normally allow) and didn’t turn the ball over (only 11 turnovers vs. the 14.8 they average).
Of course, there was also a great game from Roy Hibbert — quite likely the best game of his career in fact. He was fantastic on the block and clearly had Dwight Howard flustered. Just by his mass alone, Roy is one of the few people in the league that Superman can’t treat as a rag-doll, and that, combined with his fantastic post moves, hook shots and jumpers that evening (he was 3/4 from outside 16 feet) put Howard out of sorts.
But while that interior clash of the titans will be the best sub-story here, the real story that determines the outcome tonight will be the same as it was last time: Stopping Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter and company from taking and making easy shots. Expecting the Pacers to do as well as they did in that category as they did in Indy is beyond unlikely (Lewis was 2/8 and Vince shot 2/15), but if they can do something similar in that regard and play better offense than they did last time (Indy only shot 42.9% themselves in the win) then they might just have a shot at beating a scuffling Magic team again.
Five Other Things
(1) Orlando is playing terrible basketball of late. They’ve lost their last 3 and 7 of their last 10 — which includes embarrassing losses to Washington, Chicago, and, if we’re being honest, Indiana.
(2) Dwight Howard hasn’t been particularly active on offense all year. His PPG and FGAs per game are both at four-year lows for him, and it seems like the departure of Hedo has left few guys on the perimeter who are adept at getting him the ball. Even when he does flash aggressively in the post, he often doesn’t get the ball. Thus, he seems less than eager to waste all the energy that it takes to fight for deep position on the block. Can’t really blame him. Why bother if no one is gonna get you the ball? That’s what I’ve seen anyway. Against the Lakers on Monday, however, he was as active as I’ve seen him all year. He owned the paint offensively for large stretches of that game, and if it wasn’t for unbelievable bad shooting by the rest of the team in the 4th quarter, we would all be talking about how spectacular and active Dwight was in a win against the “unbeatable” Lakers. Pacers fans don’t really care about any of that, but the point here is that if that Dwight happens to show up like that again on offense, Indy is in big, big trouble.
(3) The Vince Carter in Orlando Experiment has been an overwhelming failure thus far. He’s shooting 38.6% overall and 30.6% from the floor. And in his last 8 games, he is an absolutely abysmal 15/67 shooting (22.4%). The Pacers should let him shoot early and often from the outside and NOT LET HIM GET ANYTHING EASY EARLY TO GET HIM BACK ON TRACK. I cannot say that strongly enough. If Brandon Rush or Granger or Dahntay or whoever lets him get into the paint in the first few minutes or lets him get a dunk in transition then the game plan for this evening needs to be serious questioned.
(4) Ryan Anderson has been one of the better under-the-radar role players for a contender this year. He can change any game with his three-point shooting.
(5) Matt Barnes is one of the few “go hard” guys on this team and the Pacers really don’t need to let him get any big dunks, steals or dive-on-the-ground plays early. Guys like Vince and Rashard — and even Dwight sometimes — are passive by nature, but can be energized when they see someone like Barnes get all hyped. Basically, don’t poke the bear with a stick.
Pacers in Orlando: Tale of the Tape