Orlando Magic vs. Indiana Pacers (Feb. 25, 2023): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

Wendell Carter and the Orlando Magic are making some significant and proven leaps as they continue to learn to win. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Wendell Carter and the Orlando Magic are making some significant and proven leaps as they continue to learn to win. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic get their first chance to climb out of the Eastern Conference’s cellar as they take on the Indiana Pacers in a big battle for the postseason chase.

Orlando Magic (25-35) vs. Indiana Pacers (26-35)

Time/TV: 7 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
Line: Magic by 2.5
Tickets: $27-$3,455 on StubHub
Season Series: Pacers 114, Magic 113 in Indianapolis on Nov. 19; Pacers 123, Magic 103 in Indianapolis on Nov. 21; Magic 126, Pacers 120 in Orlando on Jan. 25; Tonight in Orlando

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OMD Prediction

Here it is: The first real test of the Orlando Magic’s postseason push. Their chance to actually make a physical gain in the standings and move one step closer to their goals.

Yes, the Orlando Magic are 3.5 games back of the Washington Wizards for the final Play-In spot. But they have to climb over the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls to get right behind the Washington Wizards.

That will be as big of a challenge as the games separating them from the play-in.

And so Saturday’s game against the Pacers should have playoff intensity. It is a critical game to help the Magic split the season series with the Pacers and it will put the team over the top of the Pacers in the standings. A win would serve to tighten that race in a very real way.

The Magic and Pacers have played some competitive games. Both have faced each other at odd times. This might be the first time the two teams have faced each other when relatively healthy (Paolo Banchero missed the first two meetings and Tyrese Haliburton missed the third meeting). It should make for a good battle.

114. 100. 113. 38. Prediction

3 Keys To Watch

3-point volume

The biggest problem in the Orlando Magic’s offense revolves around their 3-point shooting. That is not news. The team still has to improve its shooting. But the Magic’s real problem with how they play is more about their volume of 3-point shooting. The Magic just do not take the volume of threes — or make enough of them — to make up for the volume they give up.

This is the thing that betrays their defensive growth more than anything else.

The Magic shoot the fourth fewest 3-pointers in the league at 30.6 per game. They give up the third-most 3-point attempts in the league at 37.1 attempts per game. Even giving up a low percentage, the volume overtakes the Magic at times.

The Indiana Pacers are a fast-paced team and take the sixth-most 3-pointers in the league at 38.3 attempts per game, making 36.3 percent of those shots. The Magic this year are 8-12 against the top-10 teams in the league in 3-point attempts. And it will remain a big battle for this team to keep up from beyond the arc.

Franz Forward

Franz Wagner was struggling for a good chunk of the last month. Between his last 20-point game — Jan. 21 against the Washington Wizards — and Thursday’s 21-point effort against the Detroit Pistons, Wagner has averaged 13.4 points per game and shot 45.0 percent from the floor and 34.6 percent from deep.

Wagner is still a picture of consistency with only three games with fewer than 10 points. He just never had the big burst game. But that is what the team needs from him.

More alarmingly was his struggles to finish at the rim. This is Wagner’s bread and butter and where he builds a lot of his points.

Between Jan. 22 and Feb. 22, Wagner shot 60.3 percent in the restricted are and 37.0 percent in the paint outside the restricted area. He is shooting 65.2 percent in the restricted area for the season.

Those are big differences. Especially when adding in his struggles from beyond the arc during this time period.

Thursday’s game felt like a bit of a refresh then. Wagner exploded for 21 points, pacing the Magic through much of the first half, hitting 7 of 13 shots overall, 4 for 6 inside the restricted area and 2 of 5 from deep. It was encouraging to see Wagner have that big burst after struggling (relatively) for the last month.

Battle inside

A big focus for the Orlando Magic in their game against the Detroit Pistons was certainly the battle to control the glass. Jalen Duren and the Pistons dominated the Magic in their first two meetings. Interior defense is a big piece of the Magic’s defensive strategy. And so everything has to start on the inside on both ends.

That is where Myles Turner stands as a big impediment. Myles Turner this year gives up 56.1 percent shooting at the rim this year (Goga Bitadze sits at 55.3 percent obviously on less volume). For centers that average at least 24 minutes per game, that ranks seventh in the entire league. He has always been an elite shot blocker and rim protector.

That is going to make the battle that much tougher for the Magic. They were able to attack him successfully in their win in January. But even then, Orlando let a big lead slip to single digits before they held on for the win. The mix of the Pacers’ 3-point shooting and Turner’s interior presence is a tough combination for this team to crack.

Next. Orlando Magic bench's scrappy effort gets the job done. dark

Whoever wins the interior could very well win this game.

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.