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Orlando Magic vs. Indiana Pacers: How they match up

INDIANAPOLIS — The

Orlando Magic

will enter their first-round playoff series against the

Indiana Pacers

as underdogs. How do the teams compare?

Point guard

Jameer Nelson

's offensive stats are up since

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Dwight Howard
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's absence facilitated ball movement and forced the Magic to run more pick-and-rolls. Nelson is an undersized, but hard-nosed, player with 34 career postseason starts.

George Hill

has started just nine games this season and only nine postseason games. He's a solid defender with a 2.79-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. This is a big postseason for Nelson, who could become a free agent this offseason. EDGE: Magic

Shooting guard

I expect

Jason Richardson

to shift back to the 2 spot now that

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Hedo Turkoglu
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has returned from injury. Once one of the game's most explosive leapers, Richardson has turned into more of a spot-up shooter.

Paul George

, now in his second year as a pro, is 6 feet 8 and is one of the league's most improved players. George had a team-high 108 steals during the regular season and has good shooting range. EDGE: Pacers

Small forward

Turkoglu, a notoriously up-and-down player, looked surprisingly sharp with his shooting and ball-handling during his return from a fractured cheekbone Thursday, and the Magic need his size. But even he acknowledges the playoffs will be a tougher test.

Danny Granger

is Indiana's go-to scorer, averaging 18.7 points per game. Granger will be an exceedingly difficult cover for anyone on the Magic roster. EDGE: Pacers

Power forward

This is one of the series' most intriguing matchups.

Ryan Anderson

's weakness is his defense, and he'll face a tough test from 6-foot-9, 240-pound

David West

. Coach

Stan Van Gundy

wants more focus defensively from Anderson and more defensive rebounding, but Anderson is a superb 3-point shooter who stretches the floor. West doesn't stretch the floor, but he's rugged and savvy. EDGE: Even

Center

Glen Davis

has played superbly at center with Howard out. He's perfectly willing to set multiple screens to jump-start the Magic's pick-and-roll game, and he has averaged 15.9 points on 50.8 percent shooting as Orlando's starting center. He's a willing, gritty defender. But he is nursing a sprained right ankle, and at 6 feet 9, he will face a significant height disadvantage against 7-foot-2 All-Star

Roy Hibbert

. EDGE: Pacers

Bench

Aside from shooting guard

J.J. Redick

and small forward

Quentin Richardson

, the Magic are woefully thin on their bench.

Earl Clark

and

Daniel Orton

, both 6-10 but inexperienced, will need to play huge roles on the inside. Backup point guard

Chris Duhon

has been unproductive offensively. The bench is one of Indiana's strengths. Forward

Tyler Hansbrough

and center

Louis Amundson

provide energy. The backcourt tandem of

Darren Collison

and

Leandro Barbosa

could start for some teams. EDGE: Pacers

Coaching

Van Gundy has faced his most challenging season given the Magic's Dwightmare. But he seems liberated now with this group of players. Van Gundy is one of the league's best-prepared coaches and owns a 47-35 career playoff record. Indiana's

Frank Vogel

should finish in the top three in the

NBA

Coach of the Year voting. But Vogel has coached just five playoff games. EDGE: Magic

Intangibles

Magic players have pulled together with Howard out. Nelson has become more vocal. And Davis, always vocal, earned some respect for his recent play. The Magic are huge underdogs, so what do they have to lose? Still, the Pacers won 12 of their final 15 regular-season games. Indy has momentum, is better-rested and owns homecourt advantage. EDGE: Pacers

Prediction

Almost no one thinks the Magic will win this series. The Pacers have a significant size and depth advantage, and the Magic's defense has been awful without Howard. But Orlando has competed tenaciously without their All-Star center. The series will be closer than many people expect. PICK: Pacers in 6.

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