Matchup Preview: Orlando Magic vs Indiana Pacers


Over the next month, we’ll be talking with a variety of people who cover each NBA team to find out a little bit about their team, and how they expect the season to go. We’ll also find out what they believe will be the most intriguing matchup when the two team’s meet during the regular season. We begin the Eastern Conference with a look at the Central Division and the Indiana Pacers. HoopsHabit’s Shane Young joins us. You can follow Shane on twitter @YoungNBA

Game Dates 

Friday, November 28th @ Indy 

Sunday, January 25th @ Orlando 

Tuesday, March 10th @ Indy 

Last Season: 56-26; Finished First in Eastern Conference; Lost in Conference Finals to Heat 

October 29th: Pacers 97 Magic 87

February 3rd: Pacers 98 Magic 79

February 9th: Magic 93 Pacers 92 

April 16th: Magic 86 Pacers 101 

Projected Starters

Point Guard: George Hill 

Shooting Guard: Rodney Stuckey 

Small Forward: C.J. Miles 

Power Forward: David West 

Center: Roy Hibbert 

May 28, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) reacts after game five against the Miami Heat of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Miami 93-90. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Q: Obviously it’s hard to replace a top-10 player in terms of production, but how do you see the Pacers dealing with the loss of Paul George this season? Who is the player(s) that step up in his absence? 

A: Losing Paul George was just the icing on the sewage cake for the Pacers this offseason, and it wasn’t even something they considered possible. Look, having Lance Stephenson walk in free agency was obviously in the back of their minds. Once he rejected Larry Bird‘s offer, it even became expected. But, George’s out of the blue injury knocked them senseless. They’ll primarily deal with the loss by trying to do something they never were able to do — spreading the offense with shooters and trying to out-perform teams from the outside.  

Immediately, you have the short term answers of working with Chris Copeland (who Vogel barely played last season), C.J. Watson, and C.J. Miles. All three are prolific perimeter shooters and need to be inserted in lineups. Perhaps then Indiana wouldn’t rank in the bottom half of the league in offense and outside looks.

May 30, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) warms up prior to a game against the Miami Heat in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Q: Roy Hibbert really struggled during the playoffs last season. What do you think we can expect to see out of him this season? A return to the player that we saw the first half of last season, or playoff Roy?

A: This upcoming season, it’s just impossible to imagine “playoff Roy” making a second appearance. That was (easily) the worst two months from an “elite” center that I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vowed to make him understand the need for a complete arsenal, and you can’t have a better teacher. More so than just moves on the low block, Kareem would teach Hibbert the proper self-discipline to have.  

Hibbert’s biggest problem wasn’t his lack of skill … it was the zero confidence he had in himself as an offensive center. He focused on the defensive end (rightfully so), but it shouldn’t be hard to fight for position when you’re that massive, tall, and strong.  Something has to give, and he now has the right people pushing him. Expect a guy that’s ready to step into the top six centers in the game, I’d say. He’s never been there yet.

Q: What’s one matchup you’ll be watching when the Magic and Pacers meet?

More from Games

A: When Orlando and Indiana battle, it’s always overlooked, regardless of how good the Pacers were last season. That’s primarily because there’s no terrific matchups, and no superstar battles that screams “League Pass alert.” Heck, you can’t even see Lance’s creativity against Arron Afflalo‘s finesse style anymore.

However, this season brings an interesting mix to the table. For the last three months, I’ve been dying to see Elfrid Payton’s production, and if it lives up to this Top 10 Draft hype. If Coach Vaughn decides to go with Payton for a large amount of minutes this year, I’m ready to see how Indiana guards him. George Hill gets all of Vogel’s praise for being a terrific point guard defender, yet he had to put other players on Jeff Teague just to slow him down. Payton has the driving skill to get into the lane and make plays, and then we know he’ll meet Indiana’s bruising frontcourt once he’s there. Give that to me.  

Q: All things considered, what are fair expectations for the Pacers this season? Do they make the playoffs, or are they on the outside looking in?

A: Fair expectations are something that draws a fine line with this team in 2014-15.  Should anyone be launching them into the East Playoffs? Dodge me with all that nonsense. Until Vogel proves he trusts anything on the bench long enough for 10 minutes a night, the offense is still a train wreck until proven otherwise.  

Defensively, expectations are still in the same boat. Yes, they lost a top three defender in George, but Stephenson was a little careless on defense in the regular season.  Therefore, Vogel will still ingrain the same defensive mindset to his new guys, and Rodney Stuckey is no pushover on that end (George believes).  

Nothing more than 38 wins, and nothing less than 30, I firmly believe. The East would have to be an absolute tragedy again for them to squeeze in. From the summer changes that took place, we know that’s not the case.