The Indiana Pacers were riding a five-game winning streak before running into the NBA-best Boston Celtics on Saturday, and they got a good look at what they need to do to move up in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers will try to put some of those lessons into practice and embark on another winning streak when they host the Orlando Magic on Monday.
Indiana committed 20 turnovers and allowed the Celtics to shoot 56.3 percent from the field in Saturday’s 108-98 setback. “Their team showed us tonight that there’s another level in the NBA that you have to get to and that’s what we’re working towards,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan told reporters. “Building and being able to play with that type of pressure defensively, play with the same pace offensively, we’re trying to get there. I think our guys have been working hard and have been doing some good things, but you can’t have 20 turnovers against a good team.” Indiana won’t see the same type of defensive pressure against the Magic, who are losers of eight straight and are coming off a 130-111 setback at Philadelphia — the fourth time during the slide that they surrendered at least 124 points. “I’m looking for answers as well because this streak is tough for all of us,” Orlando swingman Evan Fournier told the team’s website. “Coaches, players — mentally it’s difficult. It’s super early in the season, but it feels like February. So, it’s hard, man, it’s hard.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FS Florida (Orlando), FS Indiana
ABOUT THE MAGIC (8-12): Orlando is allowing an average of 117 points during its eight-game slide, plummeting the team to 28th in the NBA in scoring defense (109.5) on the season. “We’ll break out of this,” power forward Aaron Gordon, who suggested the defensive issues might have to do with technique, told reporters. “We can’t panic, and we have to stay composed. It’s that balance of not panicking, but at the same time playing very urgent.” The Magic were playing their fifth game in eight days on Saturday and the visit to Indiana marks the end of a four-game road trip.
ABOUT THE PACERS (11-9): Indiana was missing leading scorer Victor Oladipo (knee) on Saturday, and it could have used his athleticism on the defensive end as the Boston backcourt of Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier combined to go 25-of-37 from the floor. “We’re a team that does it by committee,” power forward Thaddeus Young told the team’s website. “Any time any guy goes down, we notice an absence, but we have a lot of guys who can step in and play.” Oladipo, who is averaging 22.8 points, had x-rays on the knee come back negative but is dealing with some swelling and is considered day-to-day.
1. Pacers SG Bojan Bogdanovic is 1-of-8 from 3-point range over the last two games after knocking down 11-of-17 from beyond the arc in the previous two contests.
2. Magic C Nikola Vucevic recorded a double-double in each of his last four games.
3. Indiana took the last five meetings in the series, including a 105-97 win at Orlando on Nov. 20.
PREDICTION: Pacers 116, Magic 111