They are primed and ready to go after rattling off three consecutive victories to end preseason play after dropping their first five games.
There are three keys to keep an eye on for the Pacers against the Orlando Magic this evening:
1. The Play of the Bench
The Pacers had one of the worst benches in the entire NBA last season and did everything that they could to improve that area of their team this past offseason. They acquired Luis Scola from the Phoenix Suns and signed C.J. Watson, Chris Copeland, and Donald Sloan. Indiana also drafted a bench player who expects to see some time this year, Solomon Hill.
Indiana will be relying on Luis Scola to come off the bench and be a scorer in the post when David West and Roy Hibbert need rest. He has a great all-around game with his back to the basket and also has a good mid-range game. Watson will be asked to put up a good game behind George Hill. At this time, we're unsure how much playing time Chris Copeland will see, but you can expect to see him receive a few minutes at least this evening. The Pacers will be looking for a good bench performance right off the bat against the Orlando Magic.
2. Can Roy Hibbert Play Strong in the Regular Season?
Roy Hibbert has been an absolute beast during the Pacers' last two postseason runs, but has been unable to put things together in the regular season. Many analysts use that reason to bring down the value of Roy Hibbert, but Hibbert did a lot of work this season to be the best that he can be during the regular season as well. He put on muscle and also worked hard on his post game and mid-range game as well.
If he's able to become more consistent offensively, he'll be able to put together the best regular season of his career. There's no reason to be concerned about his defense, as he was stellar all year last season in that aspect of his game.
3. Do the Pacers Continue Playing Smash-Mouth Basketball?
The Pacers have been known as a "smash-mouth" basketball team since Frank Vogel took over coaching, but didn't look quite like that type of team during the preseason. Granted, the games don't count and players usually don't play as hard as they can, but it still has concerned some Pacers fans.
Personally, I don't believe that there is any reason to be concerned about their defense heading into tonight's matchup with the Orlando Magic. Paul George is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, while Roy Hibbert is one of the top rim protectors in the NBA as well. Those two factors lead many to believe that Indiana will be just fine.
Overall, the Pacers should get off on the right track to start the season with a win tonight. They have improved the areas of need from last year and are a much more balanced team all around. Paul George is entering into a season that many expect to vault him into "superstar" status around the league, which is certainly something to keep an eye on.
Fans are excited and buzzing around the city of Indianapolis, and the start of the Pacers' season has not been this anticipated in years. Tonight's game will be very exciting to watch and there is going to be a great atmosphere around Bankers Life.
Evan Massey lives in Indianapolis and has followed the Indiana Pacers for the past 16 years. He has written for many sports websites including ProSportsExtra.com, Hoops-Nation.com, ProFootballSpot.com, and NaptownsFinest.com. Follow Evan on Twitter at @massey_evan.
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