After the Orlando Magic defeated the Indiana Pacers 81-77 in Game 1 on Saturday, the Pacers will look to even the series tonight in Indianapolis. Let’s take a look at five keys to tonight’s game.
5. The offensive impact of David West and Roy Hibbert
- Without Dwight Howard in the lineup, the Orlando Magic have nobody – I repeat, nobody – that can defend West, Hibbert, or even Tyler Hansbrough. When Earl Clark might be your best defensive inside presence, you are in trouble. The Pacers went to West early and often in Game 1, but shied away from him in the second half. Look for Indiana to try and get their big men involved early and take advantage of Orlando’s weak interior defense.
4. Free Throw Shooting
Maybe it was a sign of a young, inexperienced team, but Indiana really struggled from the line on Saturday, making just 13 of 22 free throws. Some of those tries came late in the fourth quarter and could have helped the Pacers pull away. Most notably, Danny Granger, an 87% free throw shooter on the year, shot 1-for-4 from the line. Indiana should win this series, but little things like missed free throws can keep Orlando in it.
3. Orlando’s Three-Point Shooting
- Hibbert made it clear that he’s not going to allow Jameer Nelson, Glen Davis, or anyone else to have an easy time around the basket. That means there is even more pressure on Orlando’s three point shooters (Ryan Anderson, J.J. Redick, and Jason Richardson) to keep them in the game. Each of the last three or four postseasons, Orlando has been known to live or die by the three. Without Howard as a scoring option down low, the Magic will rely on their shooters more than ever.
2. Bench play
- Indiana had such a spectacular season in large part due to their depth, but on Saturday their bench players shot a combined 6-24 from the field. On the other hand, Orlando’s bench is seen to be much more thin but shot an efficient 6-14 from the field and outscored the Pacers bench 17-14. Once again, maybe it’s lack of playoff experience, but Indiana needs to live up to its regular season strengths, and its bench is do doubt one of them.
1. Crunch-time scorer
- We saw in Game 1 that Orlando knows what to do in the final few minutes of a close game, even without Dwight Howard. Jameer Nelson or Hedo Turkoglu (more likely to be Jameer Nelson at this point in their careers) will have the ball, looking to create his own shot or to find the hot hand (Jason Richardson in Game 1). Indiana, on the other hand, looked confused and uncertain in the games final minutes. Someone needs to be the guy for Indiana if this game, or any of the next few, come down to the wire. Logic says it should be Danny Granger, but if someone else needs to step up, so be it.
Final Thoughts: This is a must-win game for Indiana. Hitting the road with a two game deficit would be a nightmare. The Pacers know that. Even though Indiana lost by four in Game 1, the players should take comfort in knowing that they played an awful first game and still almost won (and should have).
Prediction: Indiana 88, Orlando 80