Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers at Magic 120129
Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012 at Orlando, 6 p.m.
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (12-6) at Magic (12-7)
By Conrad Brunner
SCOUTING THE PACERS: A team that has bounced back well so far, the Pacers will be challenged to do so once again. Coming off a flat performance in a 94-87 loss in Boston Friday, they will try to avoid their first two-game losing streak against an Orlando team that routed them 102-83 at home Tuesday. This will be their 16th of 22 on the road. After playing six road games in 12 nights, they will have six the entire month of February as the schedule finally turns in their direction.
To take advantage of the opportunity that lies ahead, the Pacers must tighten up their defense, regain their shooting stroke and find a way to get some productivity from the second unit. In their last two losses, the Pacers allowed opponents to shoot 46 percent, well above their season average of 41.7. In five road losses, they've shot 21 percent from the 3-point line; in the last three they've shot 5-of-43 (11.6 percent), including a dismal 1-of-19 in Boston in which they missed their final 18 attempts. Paul George has shot 30 percent from the arc in losses, compared to 55 percent in victories.
Bench stalwarts George Hill and Tyler Hansbrough are in concurrent slumps. Hill has totaled 10 points on 18 percent shooting in the last three games while Hansbrough has averaged 5.6 points on 28 percent shooting in the last seven. The good news is Danny Granger appears to have shaken his poor start, averaging 20.1 points on 47 percent shooting (46 percent from the arc) in the last five games. Center Roy Hibbert rolled his right ankle Friday in Boston but returned to the game.
SCOUTING THE MAGIC: Orlando may welcome the Pacers with open arms, given the week this team has experienced. Other than the blowout in Indianapolis, the Magic has produced nothing but clunkers -- a franchise record-low 56 points in a 31-point loss in Boston Monday, a blown 27-point lead in another loss to the Celtics Thursday, and a 26-point loss to a New Orleans team riding a nine-game losing streak Friday. Coach Stan Van Gundy called them "the three worst losses I think we've had since I've been here," while Dwight Howard ripped his team's lack of effort after the loss to the Hornets. In its last six quarters, Orlando has produced 92 points on 33 percent shooting.
The Magic has win streaks of six overall -- by an average margin of 14.5 points -- and six on the road against the Pacers, who haven't won in Orlando since 2007. It did not need a big game from Howard to beat the Pacers earlier this week, as Ryan Anderson scored 24 points and made five of the team's 13 3-pointers.
KEY MATCHUP: In two games since being dominated 49-27 by the Magic's bench, the Indiana second unit has produced just 32 points on 9-of-34 shooting (26 percent). A team built on depth that needs collective contributions in the absence of a dominant star, the Pacers need consistent, efficient production from the second-unit players.
QUOTE MARKS: "There's nothing that's going to stop me from playing. Nothing." - Hibbert
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, Roy Hibbert (sprained right ankle) is day to day, while Jeff Foster (lower back procedure) is out. Orlando reports no injuries.
BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast at 6 p.m. on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner calling the game with Brooke Olzendam hosting the pre-game show at 5:30. 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 hosting the pre-game and halftime shows.
INTERACT: You can get in-game commentary from this group of Pacers personalities throughout the game on Twitter.