Pacers look to resume home win streak vs. Magic
The Indiana Pacers hope to continue to work their home magic under less-than-ideal circumstances when they host the Orlando Magic on Saturday night.
The game could have major playoff implications for both teams, with the Pacers (45-31) dueling Boston for the No. 4 seed in the East, while the Magic (37-39) seek to improve on their No. 9 status in the conference.
The Pacers will be playing the second night of a back-to-back set, having battled the Celtics to the wire on the road in a critical showdown before losing 114-112 on a Kyrie Irving shot with a half-second remaining.
The Pacers then had to fly back to Indianapolis, where the Magic were waiting, having not played since Thursday night at Detroit.
The loss dropped the Pacers into a tie with the Celtics (45-31) for the fourth position in the East, which carries with it home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Almost surely, Indiana and Boston will be first-round opponents.
The clubs meet again next Friday at Indiana. But before that, the Pacers must play three straight against teams fighting for their postseason lives, beginning with the Saturday matchup against the Magic.
Orlando, likewise, finds itself in the thick of a rough patch in the schedule.
The Magic will face all playoff contenders on a four-day trip that began with a win at Miami on Tuesday before a loss at Detroit on Thursday.
That left the Magic trailing the Pistons (38-37), Brooklyn Nets (38-38) and Heat (37-39) with just six games remaining in the Orlando season.
The Magic will finish their trip at Toronto on Monday.
Orlando has won two of three from Indiana in earlier matchups, with each team winning once on the opponent's home floor.
The Magic shot 50.5 percent and got 23 points from Terrence Ross off the bench in a 117-112 win at Indianapolis on March 2.
"Right now we're playing for something, man," Ross gushed to reporters afterward. "It's getting fun."
Things got real fun for the Magic when they won six in a row, capped by the 104-99 triumph at Miami on Tuesday. That streak ended with a 115-98 loss at Detroit.
The Pacers, meanwhile, have saved almost all of their fun of late for home games. They have won four straight at home in a stretch of having lost six of seven overall, with every defeat coming on the road.
One positive of the loss at Boston on Friday was that the Pacers got their preferred starting lineup back on the court, with Darren Collison looking like his old self (12 points, seven assists) after he struggled against Oklahoma City (eight points, 3-of-10 shooting) in his first game back following a bruised thigh.
Of course, the Pacers remain without star Victor Oladipo, who is sidelined for the season following knee surgery.
"We've had to change our lineups so much since the All-Star break, with different guys being out, it's hard to build a chemistry," Indiana coach Nate McMillan lamented to reporters earlier in the week. "That's part of what we're trying to do. Myles (Turner) has missed some games. Domantas (Sabonis) has missed games. Tyreke (Evans) has missed games. D.C. (Collison) has missed some games.
"With both (the first and second) units, getting that rotation is still something we're trying to work on."
The Magic outscored the Pacers 45-29 off the bench in the win earlier this month.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 30, 2019