Preview: Pacers at Magic
The Indiana Pacers will have to avoid the dangers of looking ahead when they travel to face the Orlando Magic on Friday with a showdown with the Miami Heat looming Sunday. Indiana can't afford to overlook the Magic, who nearly knocked off the Heat on Wednesday. Orlando has won the past three meetings, including a 97-86 home win Jan. 16, and hasn't lost to Indiana at home since December 2007.
The Pacers have won seven of their last nine but are coming off a tough 83-81 home loss to Boston on Wednesday in which they allowed the Celtics to score the final 11 points. The Magic have lost 21 of 24 since knocking off the Pacers in January. They appeared poised to notch their first consecutive wins since mid-December before Miami rallied for a 97-96 win Wednesday.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Indiana, Fox Sports Florida (Orlando)
ABOUT THE PACERS (38-23): Indiana is built around defense, but the Pacers likely will need to do more at the offensive end to be successful in the playoffs. They thought they might have the answer to that dilemma with the return of star forward Danny Granger, but a sore left knee has him sidelined again. That puts the load back on emerging star Paul George (17.6 points, 7.9 rebounds) and power forward David West (17.6 points, 7.8 rebounds). Center Roy Hibbert (10.3 points, 8.1 rebounds) has scored in double figures in a season-best six straight games.
ABOUT THE MAGIC (17-45): Orlando's new-look roster is starting to mesh, as recent acquisition Tobias Harris has averaged 16.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in seven games for the Magic and provides a nice complement to leading scorer Arron Afflalo (16.8 points). The Magic miss injured big man Glen Davis, but second-year center Nikola Vucevic (12.3 points, 11.4 rebounds) is enjoying a solid campaign. Orlando's biggest issue has been closing out games - it has lost 10 games after being tied or leading going to the fourth quarter.
1. Indiana is aiming for a season-best fourth consecutive road win.
2. Orlando is 5-17 in games decided by six points or fewer.
3. The Pacers are 33-5 when leading after three quarters.
PREDICTION: Pacers 96, Magic 89
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