Audition report from the AdventHealth Training Center
ORLANDO- If the Orlando Magic are looking to earn a spot in the NBA’s play-in tournament, there’s little room for error.
With 22 matchups remaining on their schedule, Orlando is 3 ½ games behind the Washington Wizards for the 10th roundth Place in the Eastern Conference with only the Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers in between.
To make those postseason dreams a reality, the Magic (25-35) must seize every opportunity to gain ground against these teams, which will lead to a showdown with the Pacers (26-35) at Amway Saturday at 7pm ET. leads center all the more critically.
“We’re focused on building each day and one day at a time,” said magic point guard Markelle Fultz, who has been instrumental in helping Orlando win 20 of its last 35 games. “We believe we can be a playoff team this year and do something really special. That’s what we focus on. Trying to get better every day and let the results come.”
This clash marks the teams’ fourth meeting of the season, with Indiana currently enjoying a 2-1 lead in the series.
In those contests, Indiana Guards Tyrese Haliburton and Bennedict Mathurin did the most damage.
Haliburton, who was named an NBA All-Star for the first time this year, is averaging 20.0 points and 14.0 assists in two games this season against Orlando while shooting 57.1 percent from the floor.
Meanwhile, Mathurin, who would be in the middle of the league’s rookie-of-the-year race without Paolo Banchero, who ranks No. 1 overall, is averaging 20.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in his three encounters with the Magic .
Offensively, behind the efforts of Haliburton and Mathurin, Indiana likes to get out and run as his 18.8 fastbreak points currently lead the league.
Targeting the color will be paramount for Orlando. Indiana has the third most blocks per game in the NBA, averaging 5.8 of them per contest. As expected, Pacers center Myles Turner has made a significant contribution in this area, as his 2.3 rejections per game is the fourth most in the association.
IN AND OUT: If ever there was an injury report that looked like a candidate for “That’s all?” – a great creation by David Steele of Bally Sports Florida – this is it.
For the first time in recent history, no player appears in the injury report.
For Orlando, Kevon Harris (G League – Two-Way) and Caleb Houstan (G League – On Assignment) are at Lakeland, while Indiana’s Kendall Brown and Trevelin Queen are questionable in the G League two-way assignments.
KEY STATUS: The Magic’s matchup with the Pistons on Thursday certainly felt like a back-and-forth battle, and the stats back it up. There were a whopping 24 lead changes between Orlando and Detroit in this competition. According to Sportradar, the most lead changes in an NBA game this season is 26, which has happened twice. First between the Miami Heat and the Sacramento Kings on November 1, and then between the Utah Jazz and the New York Knicks on November 14.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I like (Banchero). He’ll be a monster in our league. He didn’t have a good game tonight, but he has a guy like Fultz setting the table for him. Fultz does a great job getting him the ball at the right time where he can go downhill. And as soon as he goes downhill like in the last piece, you have to help him. You have to send bodies and when you do that you give up the rebound position and that’s what happened in the last game. But he will be a problem. He will be great for our league. He and (Jaden) Ivey and Mathurin and (Keegan) Murray are the top four rookies. I think it’s a great rookie class with Banchero probably leading the pack at the moment.” – Pistons head coach Dwane Casey on Banchero after Orlando’s thrilling win over Detroit
HOW TO SEE: Watch the game on Bally Sports Florida or tune in to the radio on FM 96.9 The Game.