In the midst of a three game losing streak, the Indiana Pacers will once again attempt to find their groove in a bounce back game against the struggling Orlando Magic Thursday night.
Ever since Victor Oladipo was lost for the season with a ruptured quad tendon, the Pacers have struggled to find their rhythm in games against Memphis, Golden State, and Washington. However, tonight could be the night to put the Pacers back on the right track. Orlando has struggled as of late also, as they have dropped the last 7 of 8 games. Most recently, the Magic suffered a tough loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday by a score of 126-117, with Orlando leading at the halfway point in the fourth quarter.
Someone the Pacers will need to contain tonight is Magic center Nikola Vucevic, who is averaging 20.7 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 3.8 assists on the year. Myles Turner will be tasked with handling Vucevic.
In the first round of the Pacers-Magic series on December 7th, the Pacers took down Orlando in dominating fashion, putting away the Magic 112-90. Four out of the five Pacers starters tallied double digit points, with Bojan Bogdanovic leading the way with twenty-six. Backup center Kyle O’Quinn put up a double-double off the bench, scoring 12 points, and grabbing a team leading 10 boards. Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis were both inactive for this game.
On the Orlando side, Vucevic and PF Aaron Gordon both posted double-doubles.
This time around, Indiana will have Sabonis available off the bench, but will be without Oladipo and Tyreke Evans, who did not travel with the team for this four-game road trip, as he is still nursing lower back soreness suffered in a car accident on Sunday.
In order for the Pacers to return to the level of play they were at earlier in the season, they must keep moving forward, despite losing their star shooting guard. After last nights loss to the Washington Wizards, head coach Nate McMillan told reporters that the team is just low on energy. He also had this to say regarding how to recover from the Oladipo injury:
Vic is not coming back. We have to move past that and not look at what we don’t have and focus on what we do have. We have to get more energy in that game.
I don’t think Coach McMillan could have said it any better. The loss of Vic for the season is disappointing, tragic, or whatever you want to call it. However, to be successful in the league, the team must rebound and work a little harder to return to their previous level. Power forward Thaddeus Young has taken steps to take over the leadership role without Oladipo.
Indiana goes to battle with Orlando tonight, then travels to Miami for a matchup with the Heat on Saturday before capping off the road trip in New Orleans with the banged up Pelicans on Monday, then returning home on Tuesday with the Los Angeles Lakers, who might have LeBron James back from injury by then.