Indiana Pacers -2.5 at Orlando Magic (Total: 183.5)
With the possible exception of this series currently level at one apiece, the playoffs in general have unfolded the way most expected… at least in terms of results. Not many people predicted Derrick Rose tearing his ACL, Rajon Rondo chest-bumping an official and Amar’e Stoudamire going taekwondo on a fire extinguisher leading to stitches (and the likely end of his season… that’s gotta be Top Ten dumbest injuries ever, right??). Storylines, comeback and dramatics aside, the playoffs have few major surprise and few true contenders showing any vulnerability.
I think that trend continues tonight in Orlando with a strong road performance from the Indiana Pacers. Perhaps throwing them in the “contender” category is a tad disingenuious (though if they were opposite Chicago sans D-Rose as opposed to the looming Miami Heat juggernaut I’d reconsider), but they certainly are the superior team to the Magic without Dwight Howard. Game One was a bit of an aberration on both ends of the floor. For starters, the very young Pacers looked very young, and very nervous. They shot the ball poorly, highlighted by veteran Danny Granger’s 7 of 21 clunker, and got very little of their trademark bench production.
The Pacers also fell victim to some hot perimeter shooting by the Magic. It is certainly possible the Magic steal another game in the same fashion, as their offense, especially now that Dwight Howard is on the shelf (perhaps Stan Van Gundy should give him a big hug?!?), is going to be bombs-away the rest of the series. And why not? The Magic certainly have the shooters to make things interesting. Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, Ryan Anderson and JJ Reddick can all stroke the three with frequency and accuracy, but the odds of them draining seven fourth quarter three pointers again, especially five of six in the final five minutes, seems a little unlikely.
Credit Coach Vogel for making the necessary adjustments in Game Two. Jason Richardson was basically a non-factor in Game Two, being smothered by blossoming star Paul George. The Pacers did a better job defending the arc with their rangy athletic perimeter players and their physical defensive-minded point guard in George Hill. They also exploited Orlando’s thin interior (thin as in defensive presence and depth – I’m not calling Big Baby “thin”) by pounding the ball into David West, who looked like the David West who was a two-time All-Star in New Orleans, and Roy Hibbert who was an All-Star in 2012.
Expect the Pacers to do more of the same; defending the arc with tenacity and forcing the Magic to drive the basketball, and pounding the ball inside to their bigs for easy baskets and early Magic foul troubles.
I like the Pacers to reclaim the home court edge in the series and grabbing the win at the Amway Center. (Writer’s note: you may have to search a little bit, as most sportsbooks have this game at -3, but I found two at 2.5… hey, take any edge you can get, right?)
Free Pick: Indiana Pacers -2.5