Magic-Pacers Preview


The Indiana Pacers are off to their best start in eight seasons, yet they only have four wins against teams currently above .500.

The Orlando Magic should be geared up to present a tougher challenge for the Pacers after what happened to them in their last contest.

Indiana looks to open 6-0 at home for the first time since 2002-03 on Tuesday night when it tries to snap a five-game skid in this series.

Led by 18 points and eight rebounds from center Roy Hibbert, who returned after suffering a broken nose in the first half, six Pacers scored in double figures as they capped a 2-1 road trip with Sunday's 98-96 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

"Obviously, a really big win for us, valiant effort by Roy Hibbert after getting a broken nose in the first half and coming back and really carrying us in the second half, after David West carried us in the first half (with all 15 of his points)," coach Frank Vogel said. "But this is what our team is all about. It's not about a super team of superstars, it's about a balanced attack."

The Pacers (11-4) have played only five home games - tied with Cleveland for the NBA's fewest - but they've taken advantage of a relatively soft schedule. They've beaten the Cavaliers, Charlotte, Detroit, New Jersey, Golden State and Toronto twice en route to their quickest start since opening 13-2 in 2003-04.

The road ahead could get a little more difficult for Indiana, which faces a three-game road trip at NBA-leading Chicago, Boston and the Magic after this contest.

Winners of five of six overall, the Pacers will now try to open with six straight home wins for the first time since a 7-0 start nine years ago.

However, Indiana has dropped its last three at home to the Magic by an average of 13.0 points, including a 111-96 loss last Jan. 26, Orlando's most recent visit.

The Pacers also dropped the final meeting of last season's series, 92-74 in Orlando on April 13, as Danny Granger sat out to rest up for the playoffs. The 74 points were the second-fewest for Indiana in 81 all-time matchups with Orlando, but they practically were an offensive explosion compared to what the Magic (11-5) did Monday.

Despite having two days of rest since defeating the Lakers 92-80 on Friday, Orlando set franchise lows for points, field goals (16) and field goal percentage (24.6) in an 87-56 loss at Boston.

"They came out and absolutely dominated us with their energy and defensive intensity,'' coach Stan Van Gundy said after his team's four-game road winning streak ended.

Dwight Howard was disappointed after getting beaten down the floor by older Celtics players, but the 26-year-old center continued to put up big numbers, recording his fourth consecutive double-double with 18 points and 14 rebounds.

He is eight points shy of passing Nick Anderson to become the Magic's all-time scoring leader with 10,651.

Howard has posted 14 straight double-doubles versus Indiana with the Magic winning 11 of those contests, including all three in 2010-11.

If Hibbert can't contain Howard, the Pacers will need help down low from West and Tyler Hansbrough. That trio is combining for 20.7 points and 35.7 rebounds per game.

Indiana has never lost four in a row at home to Orlando.