By Chris Mannix
April 27, 2012

It's a tale of two teams: One, Indiana, has quietly put together an elite season behind a big front line, a deep bench and an opportunistic defense. The other, Orlando, has had its chemistry rocked by squabbling between coach Stan Van Gundy and star center Dwight Howard, and its roster depleted by the loss of Howard to season-ending back surgery. Orlando took three out of four from the Pacers in the regular season, a stat that means little now with Howard out of the lineup.


Roy Hibbert vs. Glen Davis. Hibbert struggled in his matchups with Howard this season, averaging 10.8 points and 6.5 rebounds in the teams' four meetings, while Howard put up 23.8 points and 10.8 boards. But the 7-foot-2 Hibbert will have a significant size advantage over the 6-foot-9 Davis; the jump hook should be available every time down. Davis has had past success defending centers -- while in Boston, against Howard -- but there it was a tag-team effort with Kendrick Perkins or Jermaine O'Neal. Davis will have to be a singular force in the paint for Orlando to have any shot in this round.


Magic: J.J. Redick. The Magic will have to shoot their way into this series, and Redick is one of their best options. Redick stepped into the starting lineup for Hedo Turkoglu earlier this month and the results have been pretty good: In 22 games as a starter Redick is averaged 14.8 points and connected on 45.2 percent of his three-point shots. With no discernible post presence Orlando will fire away from the perimeter, hoping shooters like Redick can steal them a win.

Pacers: Point guard. Rarely do top teams make a significant change late in the season, but that's exactly what Pacers coach Frank Vogel did when he replaced Darren Collison with George Hill earlier this month. Hill rattled off a 7-2 record as a starter but only one of those wins came against a playoff team (Philadelphia). Vogel says a Hill-led starting unit plays "close to a nine," but potentially upsetting the apple cart this late in the season carries some risk.


The untested Pacers have to be ecstatic to see the Howard-less Magic in the first round. Look for Indiana to attack Orlando in the paint and try to control the tempo of the game. The Magic's shooters should be good for one home win, but that's about it. Pacers in five.

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