The Indiana Pacers (11-4, 5-0 home) play host to the Orlando Magic (11-5, 5-3 away) tonight, and will seek a sixth consecutive win on home court to open the year with the best home record since the 2002-03 season. Bringing in the Magic, who are fresh off the lowest scoring game in franchise history in a loss to Boston, may be just what the Pacers need to prove that they can win even against the best teams in the league.
The Pacers continue to improve on top of their first playoff appearance in four years, yet still haven’t finished a season at or above .500 since 2004-05. Making the playoffs with a 37-45 record last year and playing well against the Chicago Bulls in the first round (despite losing the series) has certainly given Pacers fans a taste of the glory days experienced throughout the 90′s, but getting over the .500 mark for the 2011-12 season is still job number one for head coach Frank Vogel and his well-balanced group of players. Indiana does appear to be on their way to breaking out of the losing trend with a number of key additions to their roster over the past couple of years, and the winning has come via a group effort, denoted by the fact that 7 Pacers players are averaging double figures in scoring. Adding to the Pacers quick start thus far has been their outstanding rebounding capabilities, which have them first in the NBA pulling down 45.4 boards per contest, as well as their shutdown defense which is allowing only 89.7 points per game to rank 5th in the NBA. While Indiana isn’t pouring on the scoring at 93.2 points per game, their consistency on both sides of the ball has given them an advantage in games so far this year. Nonetheless, against teams like Orlando it’s yet to really be shown whether Indiana can consistently hang with the better teams in the NBA, having beaten just 4 teams with above .500 records.
Indiana will be highly intent on securing a clutch home win tonight, as after the game they head out for a tough 3-game road stretch that will take them into showdowns with the Chicago Bulls, the Boston Celtics, and a rematch with the Magic in Orlando on Sunday. No doubt the Pacers will be looking to mimic the outstanding defensive effort by the Celtics vs. the Magic, as Orlando was held to just 24.6 percent shooting and gave up 25 turnovers in an 87-56 rout. As was key in that short-handed victory for the Celtics, the Pacers will look first and foremost into containing the Orlando guards and getting lots of pressure on the Magic’s top scorers, including big man Dwight Howard (20.1 points, 16 rebounds, 2.3 blocks/game). Howard mustered only 8 points shooting from the floor against Boston, and was 0-for-6 during the second half, with his only real production coming from the foul line, where he was 10-for-18 on the evening. Tasked with shutting Howard down tonight will be the 7’2″ Roy Hibbert (13.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.5 blocks), who has been instrumental for the Pacers this season in cleaning up the boards and making life difficult for opposing big men. Despite a broken nose, Hibbert has already shown that the injury is of little consequence to his playing abilities, as he returned from injury in the second half against the Los Angeles Lakers to lead the team with 18 points in a 98-96 victory.
Also valuable to the Pacers defensive efforts tonight will be the power forwards including David West (11.8 points, 6.9 rebounds) and Tyler Hansbrough (10.1 points, 5.9 rebounds), who should be in a good position to help the Pacers control the glass and limit Dwight Howard’s overall effectiveness. Indiana has excelled in making shooting difficult for the opposition, allowing just %41.0 of shots to fall from the floor (1st in the NBA), and against a pretty good perimeter shooting team in the Magic, the shutdown defense should do well to account for Hedo Turkoglu (49 percent shooting from the floor, 47.8 from 3-point range), and Ryan Anderson (16.4 points, 6.8 rebounds), who are both due to have improved games tonight after poor showings against Boston. If the Magic can set the tone tonight with perimeter shooting, and move the Pacers defensive efforts towards the outside guards, Orlando should be able to work in low to Dwight Howard and find success with physical play down low. However, if the Magic are once again frustrated by lockdown defense on their guards and shooting forwards, again Dwight Howard will be looked at to carry the points load, which hasn’t worked well for the Magic in close games so far this season. Orlando must play with balance, while Indiana must play with heightened intensity on defense in order to prevail this evening.
Betting Lines for Orlando vs. Indiana at TopBet Sportsbook
With the Pacers looking to go 6-0 at home tonight and coming into a match-up against a beaten-down Orlando squad that should be anxious to get back home, Indiana gets the nod as a favorite on the sportsbook betting lines at TopBet, with -150 odds to win against the money line. Orlando comes in as a slight underdog at +130 odds to win straight up, and against the spread, the Pacers will need to cover 3 points as the favorite, while Orlando gives their pickers 3 points to play with on the road this evening. With two very good defenses on the court tonight, the over/under sits at a low 182 points, and with Indiana doing well to limit opponents’ shooting while at the same time not producing high scoring themselves, this could be a good bet siding with the under total points wager at -110 odds.
Our Pick to Win:
With both teams entering tonight’s contest going 7-3 in their last 10 games, this should be a great match-up for online sports betting and for watching later on this evening. Orlando has won 5 straight games against Indiana in this series, including 3 straight at the Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, and despite their poor road showing against Boston, they’ve played well on the road winning 4 straight prior to Sunday’s setback. As such, this is going to be a very close game to call, as Orlando will be intent on improving from their worst shooting/scoring effort as a team, and Indiana will be gunning to prove that they can hang with teams over .500 and continue to be relevant in the playoff picture down the road. In the end though, Indiana should have a slight upper hand on defense, and will pester Orlando’s shooters enough to pull through by the final buzzer. Indiana snags their 6th straight home win of the season, in an 88-84 nail-biter.