The first round series between the Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers will get underway Saturday at 7:00 pm EST at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The Magic won the season series three games to one, but Dwight Howard played in each game.
ORtg – Offensive Rating
eFG% – Effective Field Goal Percentage
TS% – True Shooting Percentage
DRtg – Defensive Rating
ORR – Offensive Rebound Rate
TRR – Total Rebound Rate
The first thing that sticks out to you about the Pacers is their height. Their starting lineup comes in at 7’2, 6’9, 6’9, 6’8 and 6’2.
“Their size is just a major challenge for us,” Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Clearly we’re not loaded with size right now and they are.”
Plus, the Pacers don’t just have a rather large starting lineup, they have excellent depth.
“Going from Hibbert to David West and then Amundson and Hansbrough off the bench and their wing guys are both 6’9, their starting wings,” Van Gundy explained. “Their size is a major issue.”
Due to that the size, the Pacers have been one of the better defensive teams in the league, ranking ninth in defensive efficiency.
“They’re also very, very difficult to score on,” said Van Gundy. “A lot of it’s because of that size so we’ve got some major challenge particularly as small as we are right now.”
Without, Orlando’s front line features a rather a slender 6’10 Ryan Anderson at Power Forward and a gimpy, undersized 6’9 Glen Davis at Center. Behind them, there isn’t a whole lot of depth – Earl Clark is 6’10 but weighs in at just 225 pounds and although second-year man Daniel Orton has some size, you can’t expect him to provide much in the postseason.
That means the health and performance of Hedo Turkgolu is going to be key. After missing 10 straight games, Turkoglu return in the season finale and scored a team-high 18 points. The Magic will clearly need Turkoglu to make plays on offense, but they’re also going to need his 6’10 frame to defend Indiana’s wings. Danny Granger led the Pacers in scoring, averaging 18.7 points per game this season. Granger and Paul George (12.1 points per game) should frequently attack the basket because they shouldn’t have a lot of trouble getting to the rim.
Defending Roy Hibbert down low is going to be a tall task. Hibbert, like every other big man in the league, has trouble against Howard, but with Howard of the lineup, Hibbert has a huge size advantage. Plus, Glen Davis likely won’t be 100% after spraining his ankle Wednesday. Hibbert, an All-Star this season, averaged 12.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and shot 49.7% from the field.
The Pacers showed some improvement last season, sneaking into the playoffs as the eighth seed and putting a scare into the top-seeded Chicago Bulls. This season, they’ve showed great improvement.
“The addition of David west, huge addition,” Van Gundy told reporters. “Then the addition of George Hill and the mid-season addition of Leandro Barbosa.”
Van Gundy also pointed out the acquisition big man Louis Amundson, who has averaged 3.6 points and 3.7 rebounds per game for the Pacers this season.
Hill has 9.6 points per game this season while Barbosa has averaged 8.9 points per game off of the bench.
“The personal moves that they made have been great,” Van Gundy added.
Hill has replaced Darren Collison as the starting point guard and it’s given both the first and second unit a lift. Collison’s speed and quickness is going to be awfully difficult for Chris Duhon to defend.
With Amundson, Tyler Hansbrough (9.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Collison, Barbosa and Dahntay Jones (5.3 ppg) in Indiana’s second unit, Orlando is going to have to keep their starters on the court as much as possible, because Orlando’s bench can’t match up with Indiana’s at all.
If the Magic are going to have any chance in this series, they’re going to have to go off from beyond the arc and although that’s not entirely impossible, it certainly isn’t likely. The Magic will need their screeners to be excellent and hope Nelson and Turkoglu can really beat Indiana on the pick-and-roll.
Ryan Anderson, who’s an excellent rebounder, along with Davis, are really going to have to attack the glass and make sure the Magic aren’t completely dominated by the much bigger Pacers on the boards. Anderson is probably going to have to do a little more work inside, which is something he’s shown improvement with lately.
Jameer Nelson is going to have to be fantastic in so many different facets, especially keeping the team calm and organized as their leader and captain.
Prediction: Pacers in five.
(Andrew Melnick is the ESPNFlorida.com Magic and NBA Insider, co-host of the ESPN 1080 Insiders Show and publisher of Howard the Dunk. The Insiders Show can be heard Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST on AM 1080 in Orlando and on ESPNFlorida.com. You can follow Andrew on twitter here.)