Pacers face perfect test against Magic
Two upstart teams in the East face off at the Fieldhouse trying to earn their respect as teams to consider for the playoffs.
The Pacers host the Magic on Saturday night at the Fieldhouse is what shapes up to be a solid progress report on where the Pacers stand heading into the holiday week.
When we last saw the Magic at the Fieldhouse, they were punishing the Pacers with their length and youthful exuberance. On Nov. 19, the Magic came into the Fieldhouse and handed the Pacers a 128-116 loss, which doesn’t look so bad on the surface until you realize the Pacers had to outscore the visitors 38-21 in garbage time to make the deficit digestible.
It was a contrast in styles with the Pacers leading the league in offense facing the top defensive team in the league from Orlando. While the Pacers hang on for dear life to the top offensive rating, the Magic are now sixth in defensive rating and riding a four-game losing streak as they return to the Fieldhouse. Jalen Suggs was a problem in the first meeting with an efficient 18 points, but is questionable this time around with a wrist injury. Goga Bitadze started that first game, as well, but now Wendell Carter Jr. is back in the mix for the Magic which creates the type of front court problem the Pacers have yet to solve.
While the Pacers want to continue battling the Bucks and Celtics (and will quickly in January), the Magic is the type of team the Pacers need to concern themselves with at this point. As are the Bulls and Knicks, who the Pacers also play before 2023 turns to 2024. As much as the IST success felt like a big leap, the Pacers are back to grinding their way up the Eastern Conference pecking order. At this point beating the Magic (and Bulls and Knicks) is more important than beating the Bucks or Celts.
As the modern poet, Kendrick Lamar would put it: ‘Its levels to it, you and I know, bitch, be humble.’
Tyrese Haliburton is still on the injury report after appearing to tweak his ankle in Memphis. Obviously, his status is critical to anything the Pacers are trying to do. Orlando’s Suggs is also questionable for the Magic, but I’d prefer not making a one-for-one deal with both guards out.
If Suggs is out, that means more time for local legend, Gary Harris of HSE fame.
Where: Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
When: Saturday, Dec. 23, 2023, 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: Bally Sports
Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan
Pacers: Tyrese Haliburton, Bruce Brown, Buddy Hield, Obi Toppin, Myles Turner
Magic: Anthony Black, Gary Harris, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero, Wendell Carter Jr.
Pacers: Tyrese Haliburton (ankle) - questionable, Jalen Smith (knee/heel) - questionable
Magic: Joe Ingles (ankle) - questionable, Jalen Suggs (wrist) - questionable, Markelle Fultz (left knee) - out, Kevon Harris (coach’s decision) - out
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