Scouting report: Magic vs. Pacers 

April, 27, 2012
By John Carroll

When the season began four months ago, everyone expected the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls to be the top two teams in the NBA. No one knew how the rest of the field would fare, but the Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic or Atlanta Hawks were expected to slide into the third position. And although everyone acknowledged that the Indiana Pacers were a young, talented team, no one expected them to improve as quickly as they did this season. They finished the season with 42-24 record and have their highest seed since the 2003-04 season, when they were the top seed. This has been a great step forward for the organization, but after pushing the Bulls in the first round last year, right now they are looking to win their first-round series with the Magic.

The Orlando Magic franchise is a mess. The Magic have had so much turmoil this season with the Dwight Howard soap opera that their season cannot end fast enough. With Howard out of the lineup, it is hard to imagine this team winning a first-round series against any opponent. The Magic have struggled to defend and score since the departure of Howard, and these problems will be compounded in the playoffs. For everyone’s sake, the Magic should hope for a quick and painless exit in the first round. The Magic are expected to get Hedo Turkoglu back for the playoffs. He will play with a mask to protect his fractured cheekbone. Turkoglu has been a nonfactor this season for the Magic, so his return does not improve their chances to defeat the Pacers. The Magic defeated the Pacers three out of four times this season, and beat them twice in Indiana, so this looked like a good matchup several weeks ago. But without Howard in the lineup, coach Stan Van Gundy will have to go to the drawing board and add some new wrinkles and twists to his game plan to compete with the Pacers.