Pregame Report from AdventHealth Training Center
ORLANDO – If the Orlando Magic want to earn a spot in the NBA’s play-in tournament, there’s little margin for error.
With 22 matchups remaining on their schedule, Orlando trails the Washington Wizards by 3 ½ games for the 10th spot in the Eastern Conference with only the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers sandwiched in between.
In order to turn those postseason dreams into reality, the Magic (25-35) must make the most of every opportunity to gain ground on those squads, which makes their Saturday showdown with the Pacers (26-35) at 7 p.m. ET at Amway Center all the more critical.
“We’re focused on building every day and one day at a time,” said Magic point guard Markelle Fultz, who’s been a big part of the reason Orlando has won 20 of its last 35 games. “We believe that we can be a playoff team and do something very special this year. That’s what we’re focused on. Trying to get better every day and let the results come.”
This matchup will be the fourth meeting between the two squads this season with Indiana currently holding a 2-1 series advantage.
In those contests, Indiana guards Tyrese Haliburton and Bennedict Mathurin have done the most damage.
Haliburton, who was named an NBA All-Star for the first time this year, is averaging 20.0 points and 14.0 assists while shooting 57.1 percent from the floor in two games against Orlando this season.
Meanwhile, Mathurin, who would be in the thick of the league’s Rookie of the Year race if not for No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero, is averaging 20.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in his three matchups with the Magic.
Offensively, behind the efforts of Haliburton and Mathurin, Indiana likes to get out and run as its 18.8 fast break points currently lead the league.
For Orlando, attacking the paint with purpose will be paramount. Indiana has the third-most blocks per game in the NBA, notching 5.8 of them per contest. As expected, Pacers center Myles Turner has been a key contributor in that area as his 2.3 rejections per game are the fourth most in the association.
IN AND OUT: If there’s ever been an injury report that seems like a candidate for “Is This Anything?” – a tremendous creation by Bally Sports Florida’s David Steele – it’s this one.
For the first time in recent memory, neither team has a player appearing on the injury report.
For Orlando, Kevon Harris (G League – Two-Way) and Caleb Houstan (G League – On Asssignment) are with Lakeland, while Indiana’s Kendall Brown and Trevelin Queen are questionable on G League two-way assignments.
KEY STAT: The Magic’s matchup with the Pistons on Thursday certainly felt like a back-and-forth battle and the stats back it up. There were a whopping 24 lead changes between Orlando and Detroit in that contest. Per Sportradar, the most lead changes in any NBA game this season is 26, which has happened twice. First between the Miami Heat and Sacramento Kings on Nov. 1 and then, between the Utah Jazz and New York Knicks on Nov. 14.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I like (Banchero). He’s going to be a monster in our league. He didn’t have a good game tonight, but he’s got a guy like Fultz who sets the table for him. Fultz does a great job of getting him the ball at the right time where he can get downhill. And once he gets downhill like he did in the last play, you’ve got to help. You’ve got to send bodies, and when you do that, you give up rebounding position, and that’s what happened on the last play. But he’s going to be a problem. He’s going to be great for our league. He and (Jaden) Ivey and Mathurin and (Keegan) Murray are the top four rookies. I think it’s a great rookie class, with Banchero probably leading the pack right now.” – Pistons Head Coach Dwane Casey on Banchero after Orlando’s thrilling victory over Detroit
HOW TO WATCH: Watch the game on Bally Sports Florida or tune in on radio via FM 96.9 The Game.