|2012 Head to Head Meetings|
||Orlando (+3) 102 at Indiana 83
||Indiana (+3.5) 106 at Orlando 85
||Orlando (+5) 85 at Indiana 81
||Orlando (-5) 107 vs. Indiana 94
Skinny: At least we won't have to deal with constant camera shots of Dwight Howard sporting his Clark Kent look on the Orlando bench. The Magic's franchise center is in L.A. rehabilitating from his recent back surgery and isn't expected to be in attendance for any of these games.
Roy Hibbert won't miss him.
The Eastern Conference's other All-Star center had little success dealing with Howard, who seemingly always gets up for their meetings. After a soap opera-filled season prematurely ended with Howard severely aggravating an existing injury in Philadelphia on April 7, the Magic have adopted the slogan "we're all we got" and hope to rally around a supporting cast put together to complement the game's top big man. Privately, they do believe they can beat an Indiana team that hasn't won a playoff series since 2005 and has only played in one postseason with the bulk of its current core, losing to Chicago in five games last year.
It remains to be seen whether that confidence is misguided.
Bolstered by the acquisitions of David West and George Hill, Indiana has consistently been among the Eastern Conference's top teams all season but really took off in April. The Pacers opened the month with four consecutive wins and ended up rolling off 11 of 12 before putting it in cruise control with the No. 3 seed locked up.
The Magic haven't been able to gain much cohesion because so many key parts have been out of the lineup, starting with Howard's replacement, Glen Davis. Orlando is playing through him in the post, but has had to deal with him tweaking a knee and spraining an ankle over the last two weeks. He stepped on Byron Mullens' foot in the first quarter on Wednesday and will likely be a game-time decision when the series tips.
Hedo Turkoglu, back after having his face broken by an errant Carmelo Anthony elbow on April 5, will play with a newly-fitted mask. Ryan Anderson, Jason Richardson, Quentin Richardson, Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick round out the remainder of Stan Van Gundy's likely core, though he's expected to utilize Earl Clark and Daniel Orton in situations that require size.
Can that be enough to make this series competitive? That likely hinges on how well Orlando shoots the ball, since it lacks defensive continuity with its chief rim protector gone. Van Gundy hates that the Magic have become a team forced to out-score opponents to register wins, but he'll have to be flexible in order to get results. The Magic may have to push the pace to keep Indiana from setting up its halfcourt defense, which comes equipped with a 7-foot-2 shotblocker and two terrific on-ball defenders in Hill and Paul George starting in the backcourt.
Head-to-Head Matchups: Orlando won three of four meetings with the Pacers, but considering all the games included Howard and only one occurred post-All-Star break, there's not a lot to read into it.
Howard shot 37-for-54 (68.5 pct) in the four games, completely taking apart Hibbert with his combination of speed and strength. Davis, who likely won't ever be 100 percent in the series, will be giving up roughly six inches. He shot 7-for-17 in three games against the Pacers, averaging just 7 points per game.
The Magic need him to step up his game the way he managed to this month, where the increased touches seemed to energize him. Anderson, who will be the focal point of the offense, drilled 11-of-20 3-pointers against the Pacers this season and was especially strong at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, shooting 6-for-9 from beyond the arc and averaging 18 points and 7.5 rebounds in two visits. J.J. Redick, coming off a career-high 31-point night on Wednesday, shot 7-for-15 from 3-point range against Indiana this season.
Hibbert shot 18-for-43 and averaged only 10.8 points and 6.5 rebounds, but he's had a streak of five consecutive double-doubles during this month's surge. Top scorer Danny Granger has averaged 19.2 points in the four games against the Magic, but has shot just 7-for-26 from 3-point range. West also struggled mightily when playing Orlando (7 ppg, 5 rpg), so there's no question that the Pacers are very confident they'll be able to reverse their fortunes with Howard missing.
Betting Notes: Ready for more numbers skewed by Howard's presence that no longer apply? The Magic have won nine of 10 SU against the Pacers, covering five of six. Three of the last four games have gone over. Despite being an excellent home team thanks to a great arena and vocal fan base, the Pacers went just 15-18 ATS. They were 23-10 SU.
Series Outlook: The Magic are forced to rely on their jump shot if they plan on extending their season, since they're not equipped to defend consistently. The Pacers have great size and athleticism and look like a clear favorite on paper, but don't put it past the Magic sneaking off with a couple of these games if they get some hot shooting. Rebounding and defense, Howard's staples, become Indiana's advantages.