Things have gotten so bad for the Orlando Magic, the downtrodden Indiana Pacers have more than twice as many wins as them over the past three weeks. One of the Pacers’ victories in that span came at the expense of the Magic.
Orlando hopes to avenge that defeat and avoid losing for the eighth time in 10 games Wednesday night when it hosts a Pacers team that has been awful on the road.
After a 106-94 win over Minnesota on New Year’s Day, the Magic (26-15) opened a three-game Southeast Division lead over Atlanta and moved within one game of Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland.
Then 24-8, Orlando appeared poised for a run at its second straight conference title. However, the Magic have since lost seven of nine to drop to fourth in the East, five games back of the Cavaliers. They now trail the Hawks by one-half game in the division. During the disappointing stretch, the Magic fell 97-90 on Jan. 5 at 13th-place Indiana (14-27).
“We started (the season) out great, and then teams started changing their game plans against us,” Orlando center Dwight Howard(notes) said following Monday’s 98-92 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. “So we’ve just got to do a better job of figuring out other teams’ game plans and go forth from there. I know we’ve been in a tough stretch, but we’ve just got to continue to work. We’re going to get over this.”
Orlando hopes returning to Amway Arena after losing the final three games of a four-game trip can help it break out of this slump.
The Magic are 14-4 in Orlando in 2009-10, and have won four straight home meetings with the Pacers. Indiana has lost 16 of 18 on the road, with the lone wins in that span coming at Washington and New Jersey - the East’s other two last-place clubs.
Orlando is averaging 118.3 points during its home winning streak over Indiana, but 92.0 while losing its last three games.
The Magic had a chance to win Monday at Los Angeles, but went nearly six minutes without a field goal in a crucial stretch of the fourth quarter en route to a 98-92 loss.
After combining for 19 points in his previous two games, Howard scored 24 Monday, but had just one field goal after halftime. The three-time All-Star had 11 points against the Pacers earlier this month and was outplayed by counterpart Roy Hibbert(notes), who finished with 26.
Indiana arrives in Orlando following Tuesday’s 113-83 loss at Miami, its second straight defeat following a three-game winning streak.
The Pacers’ offense couldn’t get in rhythm against the Heat, shooting 36.5 percent from the floor and making just 7 of 26 shots from 3-point range.
Danny Granger(notes) was at the center of Indiana’s shooting woes, going 2 for 16 and finishing with eight points. It was the second straight poor performance for Granger, who shot 4 of 13 and had 12 points in Saturday’s 101-96 loss to New Orleans. He’d averaged 25.6 points in his first five games back after missing 16 - including the Jan. 5 win over Orlando - because of a heel injury.
“Our best shooters aren’t shooting the ball very well right now,” Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said.