Magic-Pacers Preview

Locked into the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, the

Orlando Magic have two games remaining to tune up for the

playoffs.

Based on their latest performance and recent body of work, they

probably don’t need much more time to work on things.

Coming off a win at NBA-leading Cleveland, Orlando looks for its

fifth straight victory when it plays its final road game Monday

night against the streaking Indiana Pacers.

The Magic (57-23) faced a Cavaliers team that played without

LeBron James and won 98-92 on Sunday afternoon to hand Cleveland

its sixth home loss.

Orlando has won seven of eight and is 21-5 since the All-Star

break.

“We’re trying to win every game, because they will all mean

something in the end,” guard Vince Carter said. “I think we’re

ready to go.”

The Magic can still beat out the Los Angeles Lakers for the

second-best record, which would give them home-court advantage if

the teams meet in the NBA finals for the second straight year.

They played all of their starters at least 24 minutes Sunday,

with Dwight Howard leading the way with 22 points, 13 rebounds and

six blocks.

“It’s going to be hard to get back to the finals, but if you do,

you want to give yourself every advantage,” coach Stan Van Gundy

said. “History bears that out.

“You’d be doing the team and the organization a disservice to

not do everything you can to give yourself the best possible chance

to win.”

Out of the playoffs for the fourth straight year, Indiana

(32-48) is playing its best basketball of the season. The Pacers

have won four straight and 10 of 12, beating New Jersey 115-102 at

home Saturday night.

They’re averaging 108.8 points over those 12 games – 119.3

during the win streak.

“It just happened a little bit too late,” said forward Danny

Granger, eighth in the NBA with 24.4 points per game. “We’ve shot

the ball better, our defense has been a little better. Our offense

has really been helping us a lot, even through the rough stretches

when our defense was kind of bad.”

Troy Murphy had 25 points and nine rebounds against the Nets,

and Granger scored 16 of his 22 in the second half.

“We are spacing the floor and hitting key shots much better

now,” Murphy said. “This wasn’t happening early in the year and

resulted in some losses for us.”

Indiana has lost two of three to Orlando, winning 97-90 in the

lone meeting at Conseco Fieldhouse on Jan. 5. The Magic have lost

six of their last eight in Indianapolis, where the Pacers have won

11 of 12.

Orlando closes the season against Philadelphia on Wednesday,

when Indiana will play its finale at Washington.