The Orlando Magic's preseason tinkering continues tonight when they visit the Indiana Pacers at Conseco Fieldhouse. Tonight's big change? Rashard Lewis will start at small forward alongside Brandon Bass at power forward. Indeed, the same five-man group that dominated the final 6:03 of the first half against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday will get the starting nod tonight, though coach Stan Van Gundy says he'd be better off playing Lewis at power forward tonight "if we're trying to win it." Malik Allen and Stanley Robinson will make their Magic debuts, while Marcin Gortat and J.J. Redick will get a routine night off. Indiana will try to bounce back from an ugly loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in its preseason opener, one in which it shot 37.7 percent from the field and only grabbed 41.7 percent of available rebounds. As Conrad Brunner of Pacers.com writes, the Pacers were one of the league's worst rebounding teams last season despite employing Troy Murphy, who finished 11th in rebounding average. They've since traded Murphy--although they did nab budding star point guard Darren Collison in the deal--which can only bode ill for their chances of holding off the Magic tonight.
|2010/2011 NBA Preseason|
|1-0 (1-0 road) |
|0-1 (0-0 home) |
|October 8th, 2010|
|No local TV|
|Jameer Nelson||PG||Darren Collison|
|Vince Carter||SG||Mike Dunleavy|
|Rashard Lewis||SF||Danny Granger|
|Brandon Bass||PF||Josh McRoberts|
|Dwight Howard||C||Roy Hibbert|
|2009/10 Advanced Stats|
|92.0 (18th)||Pace||97.1 (2nd)|
|111.4 (4th)||ORtg||103.7 (26th)|
|103.3 (3rd)||DRtg||106.8 (14th)|
Brunner also notes that the Pacers' power-position combination of Josh McRoberts and Roy Hibbert played well together against Memphis, combining for 17 of the team's 35 rebounds and shooting 76.5 percent from the field. Both guys have good range for big men, can pass from the high post, and hit the glass. What they can't do, however, is defend; neither is particularly quick. I'd expect Bass to have a field day taking McRoberts off the dribble.
The real test for Orlando will come at the other end of the floor, where Lewis will have to defend Danny Granger. The five-year veteran averaged 24.1 points per game last season and 25.8 the year before, and can get his offense in a variety of ways, although he may have settled for the three-ball a bit too often in 2009/10: nearly 40 percent of his total field-goal attempts came from beyond the arc. Lewis isn't accustomed to defending players with Granger's skill-set, having spent the last three seasons at power forward, so this assignment will challenge him.
Hibbert will have a chance to redeem himself against Howard. In the two games against the Magic following his 26-point eruption on January 1st, he combined to shoot 4-for-15 for 15 points in 49 minutes. He drained both of the three-pointers he tried, meaning he shot 2-of-13 on two-point baskets, mostly against Howard's defense. I think Howard's determined not to let Hibbert go off on him again, but there's always a chance: Hibbert dropped 23 pounds this summer and worked with NBA legend Bill Walton on his all-around game.
Collison, Granger, Hibbert, and McRoberts may be the Pacers' bright spots for now. It's hard to envision any of their other players having much success against Orlando's defense. Rookies Lance Stephenson and Paul George consistently struggle with shot-selection, for instance. Brandon Rush may be the worst NBA rotation player in history. If the Magic defend the right way and keep the ball moving on offense--a point of emphasis in yesterday's practice after a stagnant second half against Houston--they should cruise.