The 2010-11 season is here. No, it is here. The season is underway and we can finally stop conjecturing and start making sense of this summer of upheaval. The new season will be much different than the old. So let's continue thinking and previewing 2011 and all the hope and promise that comes with it.
Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog.com has organized the NBA Blog Preview, consisting of all the best basketball blogs across the Internet, to help everyone get ready. I am trying to keep up and give a Magic-centered look at each team being previewed.
Last Year: 32-50, Missed Playoffs
Last Year vs. Magic: Won 106-98 in Orlando (12/14); Lost 97-90 in Indiana (1/5); Won 109-98 in Orlando (1/20); Won 118-98 in Indiana (4/12)
This Year vs. Magic: Nov. 20 in Indiana (7 p.m.); Jan. 26 in Indiana (7 p.m.); April 13 in Orlando (8 p.m.)
Magic Connection: None
The Previews: Tom Lewis/Indy Cornrows
You feel like the Pacers are close. To what, that is the question of their season.
Danny Granger is unquestionably an All Star-caliber player. He is a tough, hard-nosed scorer who has greatly improved his offensive skills in each of the past three seasons. He is continuing to grow into a team leader and had an impressive showing as one of Team USA's defensive stoppers in the World Championships this summer.
He will need help and that will be what determines whether Indiana can achieve its goals and earn a playoff berth.
Roy Hibbert is the first key on the inside. He came in to camp a much more refined player and in better shape. He showed flashes at points last season -- even against Dwight Howard. The Pacers, who still lack a fantastic 3-point shooter, will try to beat teams by getting in the paint and working hard on the offensive glass. That makes Hibbert's role so incredibly important. Especially since he is known to have 3-point range and will hit one if you fall asleep on him.
The acquisition of Darren Collison completes a young, exciting trio. The exciting young point guard had some fantastic games when Chris Paul was hurt last year for New Orleans. He almost made Paul expendable... almost. Instead Collison was expendable. Now Indiana is his team to run.
And then, of course, you can't forget about the always consistent Mike Dunleavy, who is liable to go off for a big game -- although nothing as big as what he did against Denver on Tuesday.
Of course the trade of Troy Murphy hurts an already weak inside game from Indiana. There is just not a lot of depth in the front court.
But Indiana has amassed some talent and could be looking to sneak into the postseason.
How the Pacers will beat the Magic: Indiana defeated Orlando in early January last season while the team was in its odd January swoon. What happened in that game was Roy Hibbert went off, the Magic went cold and the Pacers got hot at the right time. It was a frustrating time for Orlando for sure.
Indiana will have to catch lightning in a bottle again for sure. But Danny Granger is still a difficult nightmare to guard with his mix of size and athleticism. He is also a pretty strong defender and made life difficult for Vince Carter throughout last season, when he played.
The key matchup is obviously between Hibbert and Dwight Howard. Hibbert is capable of putting in solid games against Howard, but it takes putting Dwight in foul trouble. Indiana does not have a whole lot of offensive weapons, so eliminating Orlando's primary defensive weapon might be the best way for them to win.
How the Magic will beat the Pacers: Dwight Howard. Obviously.
But in addition to that the Magic will have to keep Darren Collison from getting into the paint and force Indiana, which is a relatively weak outside shooting team, out of the paint and on the perimeter. Collison has a lot of speed and so Nelson's defense in keeping him on the perimeter should be an important aspect of this matchup.