The Orlando Magic's game Friday night against the Indiana Pacers presented an unusual challenge for Magic center Nik Vucevic.
Vucevic faced a player who can consistently block his shot: 7-foot-2 Pacers center Roy Hibbert.
Hibbert entered the night averaging 2.7 blocks per game, the fourth-highest average in the NBA.
But Vucevic has a secret weapon to at least prepare him for night's like Friday: a Magic basketball-operations staffer named Matt Hill.
Hill analyzes video of Magic opponents for the team.
But Hill also serves a secondary role. Like the team's other video analysts, Adam Glessner and Brad Jones, he helps during Magic practices.
Yet Hill has something the others don't: lots of height.
Hill is 6 feet 10, and he earned four letters playing for the Texas Longhorns. As a redshirt senior during the 2010-11 season, Hill played in all 36 of the Longhorns' games and started two of them.
Hill commonly works with Vucevic during shooting drills after practices and before games. He attempts to block Vucevic's shots and sticks a hand in Vucevic's face to simulate the conditions Vucevic will face on game nights.
"It's been helping me a lot," Vucevic said before tipoff Friday. "Almost every day, after or before practice, I work with him and coach James Borrego. We work on me getting my release higher and staying in the shot — not only with my jump shot but also my hook shot and everything.
"I've seen improvements from the beginning of the year. I feel more comfortable in my jumper now, and I'm just going to keep working and getting better."
Vucevic is at his best when he faces the basket.
He entered Friday having made 54 percent of his shots from 10 to 14 feet this season, 39 percent of his shots from 15 to 19 feet and 46 percent from 20 to 24 feet.
On Friday, he swished a 13-foot jumper as Hibbert closed in with one of his hands raised high in the air. The basket cut Indiana's lead to 10-8.
Hill helped Vucevic prepare for that scenario.
"He [Hill] played the game, so he has a good feel," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "Just having a 6-10 or 6-11 person to be able to contest the shot and not have to use a broomstick? That's pretty good."
Tuesday's highly anticipated game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Magic won't be televised nationally.
NBA TV allows fans to vote for the Tuesday-night games it televises, fans chose the Miami Heat's home game against the Atlanta Hawks over the Lakers-Magic game.
• Glen Davis and Hedo Turkoglu were inside Amway Center on Friday morning while their Magic teammates participated in a shootaround. Davis did some rehab work for his fractured left foot, while Turkoglu did some conditioning work to try and stay in shape during his 20-game suspension for a positive steroid test.
• Detroit Tigers All-Star pitcher Justin Verlander attended Friday's game. He sat in the first row along one of the baselines.
• Indiana's Paul George and Orlando's Arron Afflalo each was assessed a technical foul for getting into each others' faces and nearly scuffling with 8:53 left in the first quarter. Referee Marat Kogut got between them to prevent a possible fight.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun