Our Record: 18-9/13-14 ATS
When the Orlando Magic met the Indiana Pacers in November, it felt like a clash of rising titans. The Magic had the top defense in the league and the Pacers had the top offense in the league. Both teams were looking to prove that their starts to the season were legitimate.
Orlando routed Indiana that day, leading by as much as 40 points and making the fourth quarter almost pointless -- Indiana cut the deficit to as little as 12. It was one of the best wins of the season and perhaps the Pacers' worst loss of the season.
The two teams are in different places.
That win for Orlando happened during the team's nine-game win streak. They are 2-6 since that streak ended.
The Indiana Pacers catapulted into the In-Season Tournament Final, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers. Indiana is 2-5 since losing that game.
Both teams have fallen a long way off even though the Magic are still defending at a decent clip and the Pacers still have the top offense in the league. This is a potential get-right game for both and someone is leaving this critical game with some momentum.
3 Keys to Watch
The story for the Orlando Magic in the last two games has been about the team's poor 3-point shooting. Orlando has shot worse than 30 percent in each of the team's last two games. And in a lot of ways that was the reason why the Magic lost those two games.
Orlando has not been a high-volume or good 3-point shooting team all season. The Magic are 29th in the league in attempts per game at 30.1 and 29th in the league in 3-point field goal percentage at 30.1 percent.
And, obviously, the difference is clear in amking or missing shots in wins and losses.
In wins, the Magic shoot 36.1 percent (that is still 29th among all teams in wins). In losses, they shoot 30.3 percent (also 29th).
Orlando is not going to be taking a lot of threes. And the team may not even make a ton of them or shoot a good percentage. But if Orlando is at least passable from deep, that is usually a good sign. Going up against the speedy Pacers, the Magic are going to need to hit a few threes to keep up.
The good news then is Orlando should be able to work for good shots. Nearly 90 percent of the team's 3-point attempts come with the closest defender four-plus feet away and the Pacers have the worst defense in the league.
Tyrese Haliburton cools off
Tyrese Haliburton had perhaps his worst game of the season in the Orlando Magic's win over the Indiana Pacers back in November. He had 12 points, three assists and four turnovers as the Magic dominated the game pretty thoroughly.
Haliburton said on the final day of the In-Season Tournament's group play that he wanted to face Orlando again to get the team back for that performance. He had something he wanted to prove against them and that defense.
And Jalen Suggs is QUESTIONABLE for the game with the sprained left wrist he suffered last week in Boston. That could be a huge factor in the game.
Haliburton has been fantastic this season and could well start in his hometown All-Star Game. He is averaging 24.3 points and 12.0 assists per game.
But since the In-Season Tournament, Haliburton is averaging 16.5 points per game and 4.3 turnovers per game. He is struggling to match what he was doing earlier in the season.
Living in the Paint
While everyone is focusing on the Orlando Magic's ability to make or miss shots, the biggest factor for the Magic might be their ability to get into the paint. When the team is playing well, it lives in the paint and scores everything on the interior.
Orlando is currently third in the league in points in the paint, scoring 55.6 per game. The team got 60 in the loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, a big reason why the Orlando Magic were able to stay in that game.
That has remained a key to this offense. And the Pacers will give up shots in the paint -- a league-high 61.7 points in the paint per game.
As much as three-point shooting is going to be a major factor in this game, the bigger factor might be who wins the paint. The Pacers are also good at scoring in the paint. And whoever wins the paint might well win this game.