The Orlando Magic wrap up another four-game road trip as they take on the high-powered offense from the Indiana Pacers in a battle of the best offense vs. the best defense in the league.
Orlando Magic (7-5) at Indiana Pacers (7-4)
Time/TV: 5 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
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Line: Pacers by 5/Magic Money Line: +164/Over-Under: 233.5 on FanDuel
Tickets: $7-$204 on StubHub
Season Series: Tonight in Indianapolis; Dec. 23 in Indianapolis; March 10 in Orlando
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Our Prediction Record: 7-5/8-4 ATS
The Orlando Magic can both feel very good about their pair of wins against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center and a bit concerned. The team continues its trend of playing well in first halves only to blow leads in the second half and fourth quarter. But the team has now three really strong late-game finishes for victories. Or at least final plays for victories.
They all count the same.
How much of Orlando’s struggles offensively especially were a product of Chicago having a strong defense? That is something the Orlando Magic are going to find out as they go up against a notably weaker defensive team in the Indiana Pacers.
The Pacers though will put the Magic’s defense under a lot of stress with the top offense in the league themselves. And so this is a classic battle of what wins between the top offense in the league and the top defense in the league.
The answer to that might really be on turnovers. Orlando still commits a lot of them (and Indiana commits few of them). But the Pacers also force few of them. Pace is the key in matchups like this. Who dominates and controls the speed of the game?
3 Keys To Watch
Offense vs. Defense
The story for this game is the Orlando Magic’s top defense in the league taking on the Indiana Pacers’ top offense in the league. That is not what any of us expected when we saw this game on the calendar. But this is a good test for both teams to see how real they are.
For the Magic, it is another opportunity to test themselves against one of the top offenses in the league. The Orlando Magic have a 1-2 record against teams in the top 10 in offensive rating (the Brooklyn Nets are now 11th for another loss if you want). The games against the Brooklyn Nets, Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks represent their three worst defensive games this season (130.5, 118.2 and 115.4 points allowed per 100 possessions respectively).
The Orlando Magic did have a good outing against the Milwaukee Bucks without Damian Lillard in the lineup. But this is the place where the team is very unproven. And it is against these elite offensive teams that the defense shows some cracks.
A lot of that has to do with the compounding of mistakes through turnovers, missed free throws and the like. Orlando has to take care of itself and have some scoring to buoy the team in these games (it worked at least in the loss to Atlanta to a point). The last thing the Magic can do in this game is feed the Pacers extra possessions.
Battle for the Paint
The Orlando Magic’s biggest thing is to win the battle in the paint and put pressure on the rim. That is the guiding philosophy for the team.
Orlando averages 50.3 points in the paint per game, sitting in 13th in the league at this stage of the season. This is a number that has been dropping of late with Orlando eclipsing that average in only once in the last four games.
The Magic obviously struggle to shoot and so getting shots on the interior (and getting to the foul line where the team leads the league in free throw rate) are the biggest keys for this team.
So Orlando is going up against one of the historically best rim protectors and paint defenders in Myles Turner. And challenging him is going to be the biggest key for the Magic in this game.
But as good as he has been historically defending the rim, the Pacers give up the most points in the paint in the league at 62.4 points per game. Orlando has to look to get pressure on the rim and slow the game down by getting to the foul line to get a drumbeat of points but also keep the Pacers out of transition.
The 3-Point Battle
The whole stress of this game will be about how the Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers deal with the push and pull of 3-point shooting in this one. The Pacers are going to get up a lot of threes in this one. They are fifth in the league with 40.3 3-point attempts per game and fourth in the league at 38.6 percent.
This team is not shy about getting out in transition and get the threes up. That is the biggest risk for the Magic in this one.
Orlando is giving up only 33.0 attempts per game from deep this year (eighth in the league, Indiana gives up the fewest attempts but they also give up a lot of points in the paint). Opponents are shooting 35.4 percent against the Magic (good for 12th).
Whether Orlando can defend the 3-point line or not, the real question is whether the Magic can get up enough threes to keep pace.
That is probably the biggest concern in this game. Orlando just is not a good 3-point shooting team and the Magic will have to work its hardest to slow this game down and limit how many shots the Pacers get up.
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