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Magic vs. Pacers preview: With Oladipo still ailing, Orlando must find a way

The Magic host one more game against the Pacers before heading out of town (again)

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Last time out on the floor, the Orlando Magic were in a position to break the Denver Nuggets six-game winning streak, a feat they nearly accomplished taking the Western Conference leaders into overtime before falling 124-118.

The Magic have another opportunity Friday night to end a streak, one that has been lingering for quite some time. The Indiana Pacers are in town, currently riding a seven-game winning streak against Orlando. The Pacers have in fact owned the Magic for some time, winning 14 of the last 15 meetings between the two teams.

Orlando’s odds of ending that streak slightly increased Thursday when Indiana announced that their All-Star guard (and former Magic second overall draft pick) Victor Oladipo would be missing the contest. Oladipo will be missing his ninth consecutive game as he continues to rehab an ailing right knee. The Pacers have gone 4-4 in Oladipo’s absence.

Even without Oladipo, the Pacers still have a group of players that can easily cause the Magic problems. And Indiana should be well rested; they haven’t played since their 96-90 home victory over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night. In that contest, the Pacers were led by Darren Collison (23 points) and Myles Turner (18 points, 11 rebounds, 5 blocks).

It will be interesting to see how the Magic respond after dropping an emotional contest against the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night, the team’s first home game in over two weeks.

The talk throughout the entirety of Orlando’s last contest was the free-throw disparity in the game. Denver attempted 37 free throws to Orlando’s 8 attempts. The Magic didn’t attempt a single free throw until late into the third quarter. Orlando was charged with four technical fouls, and guard Evan Fournier was ejected from the game after picking up his second technical in the overtime period.

After the game, coach Steve Clifford didn’t want to talk about the free throw disparity, rather stating that his team’s defensive approach guarding the Jamal Murray/Nikola Jokic high pick-and-roll led to their demise.

“Obviously our offense was more than good enough,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “We competed hard, but at the end of the day we couldn’t guard the high pick and roll the whole game, couldn’t get a handle on it.”

Evan Fournier saw things slightly differently speaking to reporters in Orlando’s locker room after Wednesday’s game.

“It’s terrible, man, and that’s why it’s frustrating,” he said. “We’re a team that never complains and we never get the calls. Then we start to say something and then we get the technicals. What is that?”

The Magic were led by Fournier (26 points) and center Nikola Vucevic, who continued his All-Star campaign by posting 24 points, 15 rebounds, and 4 assists in the game.

The Magic (12-13) still sit one half-game ahead of the Charlotte Hornets atop the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference, and seventh overall in the Eastern Conference standings.

Orlando will travel to Dallas Monday to take on the Mavericks, and then head on to Mexico for two games against the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz (the Magic are considered the “home” team in those two contests).

But first the Magic must take care of business inside the Amway Center tonight, successfully finishing the job of ending a streak this time around.