|2009/2010 NBA Season
|January 5th, 2010
|December 14th: Magic 106, Pacers 98
|Tommy Nuñez Jr.
When the Orlando Magic visit the Indiana Pacers at Conseco Fieldhouse tonight, it'll be a matchup of teams not living up to expectations. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has juggled the starting lineup, moving Matt Barnes in at small forward in an effort to get his team to play more energetically. He also spent some time Sunday studying Orlando's plus-minus data from the last 12 games, trying to figure a solution to the team's mediocre play of late.
Things aren't running smoothly in Indianapolis, either, as the Pacers have lost 9 of their last 10 games. A few days after Indy Cornrows' Tom Lewis wrote this hopeful post about what 2010 might bring for the Pacers, they dropped a 43-point decision to the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden. Perhaps as a result of his poor three-point shooting, coach Jim O'Brien bumped one-time starting point guard T.J. Ford to the end of the rotation, elevating the journeyman Earl Watson and the rookie A.J. Price as a result. Ford is the Pacers' fourth-highest-paid player this year and has this season and next one left on his contract, at $8.5 million each. Indiana would love to trade him, but who's interested in acquiring a selfish point guard at that price, especially one with chronic back issues to boot?
The Pacers put a bit of a scare into the Magic the last time these teams played, as they led by 13 points at the end of the first period and held a 2-point lead heading into the 4th quarter. Less than 2 weeks later, the Miami Heat ran 'em out of the building and tallied 13 dunks! It's a team that Orlando should dispatch with relative ease, especially with Ford out of the lineup. Ford lights up the Magic to the tune of 14.5 points per game for his career; he's only averaged more points against 4 other teams. As Magic TV play-by-play man David Steele noted during the previous Indiana/Orlando telecast, it was fitting that Ford sank his first--and, to date, only--three-pointer of the season against the Magic. He always seems to play well against them.
The counter to Ford's play against Orlando is Vince Carter's play against Indiana. As Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star reports, Carter leads all active NBA players in points scored versus the Pacers, and his per-game average of 25.9 points exceeds his career average of 23.3. Carter sprained his ankle three nights ago in Chicago, but will start tonight after looking good in practice yesterday.
Tip's at 7 on Sun Sports. We'll see if Orlando can snap out of its funk and pull out a double-digit win against a reeling team missing 3 rotation players, including the All-Star Danny Granger.