April 10, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Injured Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard claps from the sidelines against the Washington Wizards in the second half at Verizon Center. The Wizards won 93-85. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE
The Orlando Magic have suffered through an up and down season, dealing with some self-inflicted wounds with the way the team, coach Stan Van Gundy and star center Dwight Howard have handled Howard's status with the Magic.
Now the Magic are dealing with a different pain as they try to finish the regular season without Howard due to a herniated disk in his lower back. Sounds like a bonus for the Indiana Pacers since right now the Magic and Pacers would face each other in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
But the Magic still have to win a few games, again without Howard, to hold onto that sixth spot in the East. Orlando is currently three games ahead of Philadelphia and New York with seven games to play, so it will be interesting to watch how things unfold while the Pacers try to hang onto their spot in the standings, as well.
The Magic hope Howard can return for the playoffs, so he could still cause the Pacers problems. It has been hard to decide which team among the Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks and Orlando would be the best first matchup for the Pacers because they all present different matchup problems for the Pacers on a given night. But if you have to choose between the Celtics, Hawks or Macic with Howard being one trip down the floor from aggravating his injury, I think I'd take my chances with Orlando.
Howard's injury definitely adds some intrigue to the playoff picture for the Pacers, but whether it will be a net positive or not will be determined over the next ten days.