Orlando Magic vs. Indiana Pacers: Game Preview

Terrence Ross
by Dan Savage

ORLANDO -- The final piece from the Orlando Magic’s flurry of trade deadline transactions will make his team debut on Friday night.

Gary Harris, acquired from the Denver Nuggets along with R.J. Hampton and a future first round pick in exchange for Aaron Gordon and Gary Clark, will take the floor with the Magic (17-34) as they get set to host the Indiana Pacers (23-27) at 7 p.m. ET.

Harris, who’s missed 30 of the last 31 games due to injury, has played his entire career with the Nuggets after being acquired in a draft night trade from the Bulls in 2014. Over the course of his career, the shooting guard has averaged 12.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game, while shooting 45.4 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from distance.

“I’m excited,” Harris explained. “It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been around the team for a little bit now, so I’m excited to finally get out there and play with the guys.”

The 26-year-old Michigan State alum is known throughout the league as an exceptional defender. The Magic, who struggled mightily on that end of the floor against the Wizards on Wednesday, will take all the help they can get to solidify their defense.

“His athleticism, his layups – I know he does these crazy 360 layups, reverses – his IQ, and can definitely defend too,” said Magic forward James Ennis III of Harris. “That’s one thing I told him, ‘we got another defensive stopper coming.’ That’s what every team needs and wants on their squad. And he can shoot the ball well. Obviously, what he did in Denver was special. I’m glad he’s here with us now.”

Along with welcoming Harris, the Magic are still looking to build chemistry and cohesion among a unit that’s been forced to heavily shift pieces and adjust rotations due to injuries and trades. Orlando has rolled out 24 different starting lineups this season and is also looking to get a bench unit to mesh that features Cole Anthony, who just returned from a 25-game layoff, Hampton, who’s seeing the most minutes of his rookie campaign, and Mo Bamba, who’s just starting to get consistent playing time.

“I feel like we all jell pretty good together,” said Harris. “We (the veterans on the roster) have all been around a little bit, we’ve all experienced different things, but I think we all see the talent that this team has. Like I keep saying, this could be a very special group. This is going to be a very fun team to watch. We have a lot of talent on this team.”

KEY STAT: As mentioned, the Magic used their 24th different starting lineup of the season against the Wizards on Wednesday. According to Sportradar, that is the third-most lineups used for Orlando since the 1996-97 season.

The most lineups used in franchise history is 28, which happened twice. First in 1991-92, and then again in 2012-13 per Elias Sports Bureau.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I’m willing to give it all. This is a good group. Just being around the locker room, being around the guys, this team has a unique energy about everybody in the locker room. The guys are close. Everyone gets along. It’s a very fun team. So, just looking forward to getting out there, just having fun with these guys, playing hard, and being able to do whatever the coach needs me to do, whatever my teammates need me to do. Just being there for the team. We are all in this together.” – Harris

INJURY UPDATE: The Magic will be without Markelle Fultz (torn ACL, left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee rehabilitation), Karim Mane (sore right hamstring), and Otto Porter Jr. (left foot pain).

For the Pacers, Malcolm Brogdon (sore right hip) and Domantas Sabonis (left ankle sprain) are questionable, while Myles Turner (left ankle sprain) and T.J. Warren (right foot; stress fracture) are out.

RIVALS REPORT: In this edition of our Rivals Report series, we’re joined by Wheat Hotchkiss, who covers the Pacers for Pacers.com. He’s been with the team since the start of the 2012-13 season and was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions about their squad:

Savage: “Since the last time these two teams met, what have been some of the biggest storylines and what’s stuck out about this Pacers team?”

Hotchkiss: “I think it’s a team that slowly starting to find its identity. Injuries have been the reoccurring theme throughout the season, even right now. Three starters have been out the past couple games. Myles Turner is definitely going to still be out tonight, and we’ll see about Sabonis and Brogdon. Those injuries, especially for a new coaching staff, have really crippled their ability to establish that consistency and that identity. You see flashes. It’s been one of those seasons where you win a couple games, lose a couple games, and haven’t been able to put sustained success together. But there have been moments that have been encouraging. You’re seeing development from certain players. T. J. McConnell – I can’t believe I’m saying this – he’s become a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, really. Myles Turner is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. You’ve seen moments from pretty much everyone on the roster, but it’s just establishing that consistency. That’s the big thing that this team wants to do heading towards, hopefully, a playoff push.”

Savage: “Speaking of a playoff push, what do you think needs to happen for the Pacers to make a run?”

Hotchkiss: “First and foremost, they need to be healthy. We know T.J. Warren is not going to play again this season, but hopefully you can get Sabonis, Brogdon, and Turner back and be as close to full strength as you can going into the playoffs. Then, I think continuing to play together, and continuing to establish themselves more on the defensive end. I think this team plays really well when they push the pace, when they’re able to get out and run. So, being able to do that consistently is a big thing. Then, establishing more success at home. They, for whatever reason, have just won two of their last eleven at home. They’ve been a really good road team, but they’ve just struggled at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, which is highly unusual for the Pacers. Obviously, when you get to the playoffs or the play-in tournament, homecourt advantage is such a big factor. And if you’re playing a home game, you want to be playing well at home. So, getting some wins at home in the last month and a half (of the regular season) would be a really big thing to build that confidence in the Field House.”

Savage: “The last time we spoke, Indiana had just acquired Caris LeVert. What’s stood out to you about him since taking the court for the Pacers?”

Hotchkiss: “Well, I think he’s definitely a very versatile player. He’s a gifted scorer, I think everyone knew that, but he’s also very good at creating for others. With Brogdon out, they’ve actually been starting LeVert at point guard, so they can keep McConnell coming off the bench. He’s filled in very well in that role. He’s perfectly capable of running the point when you need him to. He’s got size and he’s a good defender. His personality has been a great fit in the locker room. He’s come in there and established himself as another voice that the players respect. They had a bad loss about a week ago and afterwards, he said some things about how they weren’t having fun out there and he wanted to see them get back to that. The next night, they came out and scored one-hundred-and-thirty-nine points in San Antonio. So, he’s been a big catalyst in pushing this team to stay positive. With everything he’s been through, seeing the way that he stays positive has rubbed off on his teammates. Because if you can go through being diagnosed with cancer and having surgery in the middle of the season, adversity on the basketball court is nothing. That’s been a real positive influence in the locker room.”

EARNED EDITION UNIFORMS: The Magic will debut their Earned Edition uniforms tonight. The uniform, which is exclusive to teams who went to the 2020 NBA Playoffs, prominently features the Magic's primary icon, ball within the swoosh, front and center with a cascade of stars within a blue stripe along the sides of the jersey and shorts. The jerseys will be available at the Magic team shop at Amway Center or online, www.orlandomagicshop.com.

This is the fifth and final uniform in the Magic's collection this season. The team most recently unveiled the latest iteration of the City Edition uniforms in November. In addition, they announced the Jordan brand on its Statement uniforms along with the Icon and Association. The uniforms were developed through a collaborative effort between the NBA, its players and Nike.

The Earned Edition uniforms, celebrating the 16 franchises who earned a spot in the 2020 NBA Playoffs, feature team names or logos prominently emblazoned on the front of the uniforms and featuring current team design elements, brought to life through enhanced franchise colors. The designs across each uniform amplify the iconic elements that are ingrained in the fabric of each organization.

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