Pacers can now turn attention to Heat
by Mike Wells, USA TODAY Sports
They could have easily looked past a game in front of the sparse crowd at the Amway Center on Friday night. Their sights could have been three hours down the turnpike, thinking about what awaits them Sunday night in Miami.
The Indiana Pacers didn’t think that way.
They weren’t going to let the struggling Orlando Magic stop them from getting back on track after they gave away a game at home against Boston two nights earlier.
The Pacers were never threatened by the Magic in a 115-86 victory Friday night.
“It’s always good to bounce back,” Pacers point guard George Hill said. “We know Sunday’s game doesn’t mean anything if we would have laid an egg. The first two times we came here, (the Magic) handed us a good butt whooping. We knew that in the back of our heads.”
The Pacers play the Heat, who are on a 17-game winning streak, on Sunday. They’re 2-0 against the Eastern Conference’s best team this season. Miami hasn’t lost since the Pacers beat them Feb. 1 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
But before they could worry about LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the Pacers had to make sure they took care of the Magic.
The players didn’t talk about Miami on the plane ride to Florida on Thursday, at shootaround or inside the locker room before Friday’s game.
It was all about Orlando. Nothing else.
“We were tied with the Knicks for the No. 2 seed, so this game was going to sway it one way or another,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “We just talked about how important of a game this is. We didn’t talk about Sunday’s game. Just trying to take back the two seed.”
The Pacers, who have a half-game lead on New York, simply had to look back at their first two games — one preseason and one regular season — against the Magic in Orlando.
The rebuilding Magic beat the Pacers by 16 points in the preseason and by nine in January.
“We knew Orlando was a dangerous team,” Pacers power forward David West said. “We didn’t play well in either game against them. We were locked in … [For more on Pacers can now turn attention to Miami Heat, click here.]