Countdown to Tipoff: Magic at Pacers 120124
Tuesday, Jan. 24 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 7 p.m.
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (11-4) vs. Magic (11-5)
By Conrad Brunner
SCOUTING THE PACERS: In what has been a streak-busting year for the Pacers, they get a chance at another when the Magic come to town. Indiana has lost five in a row to Orlando, including last season's series sweep. But the Pacers are 5-0 at home and already have snapped streaks of seven in Boston, five in Toronto and four in Oakland and are coming off a 2-1 Western Conference road trip that concluded with a 98-96 victory over the Lakers. Roy Hibbert was huge in L.A., scoring 16 of his 18 points in the second half after missing much of the first with a broken nose but the Pacers got their typical balance with all five starters among the six players scoring in double figures.
The offense continues to show signs of life as the Pacers have averaged 94.7 points on .433 shooting in winning five of the last six, not great numbers but a significant improvement over the 92.2 points and .409 shooting of the first nine. A key has been the transition game, as they've averaged 15.8 fast-break points in that span, up from 9.6. Danny Granger is emerging from his early season shooting funk, averaging 19.8 points and .424 shooting in the last four, and George Hill has been a dynamic factor off the bench, averaging 12.8 points on .563 shooting overall and .531 from the 3-point line in the last 11 games. The Pacers are 10-0 when they score at least 90 points, 8-0 when they win the rebounding battle and 8-0 when they make at least one-third of their 3-point attempts.
SCOUTING THE MAGIC: Orlando comes to Bankers Life Fieldhouse feeling the sting of a historically bad performance Monday night in an 87-56 loss in Boston to a Celtics team missing five players, including starting guards Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. The Magic shot 24.6 percent, had more turnovers (25) than field goals (16) and established a franchise record low for points.
Until that game, Orlando had been playing well despite a foreboding sense of déjà vu thanks to Dwight Howard's apparent unrest and reported desire to play in a bigger market -- much the same issue that led to Shaquille O'Neal's decision to leave Orlando for L.A. as a free agent in 1996. As long as Howard is on the roster, Orlando will be a top contender. He leads the league in rebounding (16.0) to go with 20.2 points, 2.4 assists, 2.25 blocked shots and 1.4 steals. He is eight points away from surpassing Nick Anderson as the franchise's all-time leading scorer.
Orlando remains a prolific 3-point shooting team, ranking fourth in the league in accuracy (.395) while attempting 24.4 per game. Power forward Anderson averages 7.6 attempts per game, most in the league, while Hedo Turkoglu ranks ninth in accuracy (.478). Coach Stan Van Gundy also has the team playing solid defense as Orlando ranks eighth in points allowed (91.3).
KEY MATCHUP: From one of the league's best perimeter players to perhaps its most dominant big man, the Pacers have another big individual challenge. They made Kobe Bryant work for his points, as he needed 30 shots to score 33 points and only had one bucket in the fourth quarter. They'll need to do much the same against Howard. Orlando, on the other hand, must contend with Hibbert and David West, big men that combined for 61 points, 40 rebounds, 16 assists and 28 of 49 shooting (.571) in the last two games.
QUOTE MARKS: "We've come really far. This game (beating the Lakers in L.A.) wasn't a surprise for us. We’re 11-4 right now and we feel like we should be 13-2. We come into arenas expecting a win; we don’t come in as underdogs." - Granger
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, Jeff Foster (lower back procedure) is out. For the Magic, Hedo Turkoglu (back spasms) is day to day.
TICKETS: Two for Tuesday presented by Indiana Members Credit Union
BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner calling the game with Brooke Olzendam hosting the pre-game show at 6:30. The radio broadcast is anchored by the flagship of the Pacers' network, WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle in his 24th season of play-by-play. Austin Croshere will serve as analyst with Kevin Lee reporting.
INTERACT: You can get in-game commentary from this group of Pacers personalities throughout the game on Twitter.