This is the first in a collection of playoff previews here at Hickory-High. We’ll be looking at each series from a statistical perspective, as well as breaking down video to look for some plays and trends that could influence the final results.
Indiana vs. Orlando Season Series
Pacers – FTR – The Pacers were second in the league this season in Free Throw Rate, trailing only the Oklahoma City Thunder. However, in four games against the Magic that strength evaporated. On the season the Pacers averaged 26.1 free throw attempts per game, against the Magic they averaged just 17.1. The giant hole Dwight Howard‘s absence leaves in the middle should open driving lanes for the Pacers and help them find their way to the interior. But they’ll have to stay aggressive, making it a point of emphasis to take advantage. For an offense that is not hyper-efficient, and lacks an individual focal point, getting easy points at the free-throw line is a must. The Pacers will be heavily favored but if they can’t get draw fouls the series could be close.
Magic – 3PT% – The Magic torched the Pacers from the outside during the regular season, taking an average of 26.8 three-pointers per game, making 39.3%. Even without Howard, the Magic haven’t struggled to create and make good looks from the perimeter. Over their last ten games they’ve averaged 28.1 three-point attempts per game, making 35.9%. Howard’s absence means those looks won’t come from inside and outside action, making pick-and-rolls and drive-and-kick penetration from Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick even more important. The Magic have to score from the outside to beat anyone. They did it against the Pacers with Howard, now they have to find some ways to do it consistently without him.
Players to Watch:
Pacers – Danny Granger – The Pacers will enter the playoffs with Danny Granger playing as well as he ever has. In April, he has been scoring 21.6 points per game, making 47.3% of his three-pointers. The Pacers’ ORtg. over the same stretch has been 107.5, four points higher than their season-long average of 103.5. Most impressive about his recent torrid shooting has been the patience and restraint he’s showed in his shot selection. When Granger is making shots in the flow of the offense it opens space for Roy Hibbert and David West in the paint, and driving lanes for Paul George and George Hill. If the bottom drops out of Granger’s hot-streak the Pacers will have to move back towards scraping out wins with the defense first recipe they were relying on early in the season.
Magic – Jameer Nelson – Since Howard went down, Nelson has taken on a much larger offensive role. His FGA/36 minutes have jumped from 14.2 to 19.2 and his overall Usage Rate has climbed from a season long average of 21.1% to 27.5%. He’s scoring and creating more, but his FG% since Howard went down is just 39.5%. Nelson will be the driving force behind the Magic offense for good or bad. He can create quality looks for Richardson, Anderson and Redick, filling in the gaps with bursts of scoring, or he can simply shoot the Magic out of the games. What he can accomplish against the Pacers will reflect the chances the Magic have staying in the series.
Lineups to Watch:
Pacers – Darren Collison – Leandro Barbosa – Dahntay Jones – Tyler Hansbrough – Lou Amundson – With the addition of Barbosa, and Collison’s move out of the starting lineup, this unit is a newish arrangement for the Pacers. They’ve played just 14 minutes together on the season, struggling mightily. In those 14 minutes they totalled 16 points on 28 possessions were outscored by their opponents an average of 57.67 points per 100 possessions. Moving Hill into the starting lineup has strengthened the starting rotation for the Pacers but has left a bench rotation, which has struggled all year, seriously in the lurch. Frank Vogel may elect to keep this complete unit off the floor entirely, but he has to figure out how to put effective combinations together when the starters aren’t on the floor. One advantage this move could create is an opportunity for Collison to be freed from the shackles of a ‘floor general’ role and look for his own offense more regularly.
Magic – Jameer Nelson – J.J. Redick – Jason Richardson – Ryan Anderson – Glen Davis – With Howard out and Hedo Turkoglu‘s return uncertain, this lineup represents an opportunity for the Magic to get their five best players on the floor at the same time. This group has been incredibly efficient offensively, with an ORtg. of 113.2 and an eFG% of 55.0% in just over 111 minutes. They’ve also been able to hold their own on the glass, with a TRB% of 52.6%, and protect the ball, turning it over on just 9.55% of their possessions. They may struggle defensively, especially with Hibbert in the post, but will offer the Pacers plenty of problems with their ability to spread the floor. This group didn’t play a minute against the Pacers in the regular season but will play a huge role in this playoff series.
Statistical support for this story from NBA.com