Pac­ers press for­ward against Magic with­out All-Star Oladipo

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS WEEKEND - By Roy Parry

The In­di­ana Pac­ers once again are play­ing long stretches of bas­ket­ball with­out dy­namic guard

The All-Star is nurs­ing a sore right knee, with his re­turn to the lineup un­known. He sat out Fri­day’s game against the Magic at Amway Cen­ter, mark­ing the ninth straight game he’s missed en­tirely be­cause of the in­jury.

Oladipo was hurt in the first quar­ter of the Pac­ers’ Nov. 17 game against the Hawks. He had been listed as day-to-day be­fore the Pac­ers, who went on to win that game, even­tu­ally ruled him out in­def­i­nitely.

That’s not nec­es­sar­ily good news for the Pac­ers, who went 0-7 last sea­son with­out Oladipo in the lineup. They are 5-4 with­out him this sea­son, count­ing the win over the Hawks when he played about five min­utes.

Over­all the Pac­ers are 14-10 and are 2.5 games be­hind the first-place Mil­wau­kee Bucks in the East­ern Con­fer­ence’s Cen­tral Divi­sion.

Oladipo, who was drafted by the Magic as their first pick in 2013, leads the Pac­ers in scor­ing (21.4 ppg) and is shoot­ing 44 per­cent from the field. He’s also sec­ond in re­bounds (6.6), as­sists (4.7) and steals (1.6) per game.

His ab­sence cer­tainly changes how teams might play the Pac­ers. But Magic coach said it would be a mis­take to dis­miss the Pac­ers just be­cause Oladipo is on the side­line. In­di­ana’s abil­ity to play de­fense makes it a dif­fi­cult team to beat.

“Any time you lose a pri­mary scorer like that, it changes your team,” Clif­ford said. “They’re still good. They’ve done a great job with­out him. They’re so good de­fen­sively. They play a sim­i­lar style.”

The Pac­ers rank first in the NBA in op­po­nent points per game at 102.1 and are sev­enth in op­po­nent field­goal per­cent­age at 44.4 per­cent.

In ad­di­tion, the Pac­ers have held their own of­fen­sively in Oladipo’s ab­sence, scor­ing three more points a game (107.8 to 104.8).

More min­utes for Isaac: Clif­ford con­tin­ues to up the min­utes for

The sec­ond-year for­ward missed six games ear­lier this sea­son with an an­kle in­jury and the Magic brought him along slowly when he re­turned. He has not yet re­turned to the start­ing lineup, but Isaac has played at 30 min­utes in three of the Magic’s past five games. He’s reached dou­ble-fig­ure scor­ing in four of those con­tests.

“He’s go­ing to play, ob­vi­ously, starter’s min­utes, so I don’t think he cares. I’ve talked to him a lot about it. All he wants to do is win,” Clif­ford said.

Hall of Fame for Steele: Long­time Magic play-by­play an­nouncer

who be­gan work­ing with the fran­chise in 1989, will be­come the eighth in­ductee into team’s Hall of Fame dur­ing a Fe­bru­ary cer­e­mony.

Steele is in his 30th sea­son of Magic bas­ket­ball and 21st as the play-by-play an­nouncer. Dur­ing that time, he has called 2,296 games (reg­u­lar sea­son and play­offs) on both tele­vi­sion and ra­dio. The Jack­sonville na­tive took over as the Magic’s play-by-play voice in March 1998 af­ter han­dling ra­dio play-by-play du­ties for the team’s first nine sea­sons. “For 30 years,

has rep­re­sented the Or­lando Magic with tremen­dous dig­nity and class,” said Or­lando Magic CEO said in a press re­lease. “It is only fit­ting that he takes his right­ful place into the Or­lando Magic Hall of Fame.”

The in­duc­tion cer­e­mony will be Fri­day, Feb. 22 at 4 p.m. in Amway Cen­ter. Steele also will be hon­ored dur­ing the Magic’s game that night against the Chicago Bulls.

Hard to beat: Or­lando has lost its past seven games and 14 of the past 15 against In­di­ana, and hasn’t beaten the Pac­ers at Amway since Feb. 9, 2014, a stretch of seven games.

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