The Magic were down before they could even blink. They were facing the same long mountain that they have faced in the first two games of this series. A team that was longer, more talented and able to attack defense in multiple ways.
Orlando had a big puzzle to solve after a Game Two loss. Consider the picture on the cover of the box thrown out. Orlando does not have an answer offensively right now and that is going to make things tough.
Especially when the Pacers open the game making nine of their first 10 shots and take a 10-point lead in the opening minutes and then get out of the gates for 53 points in the second half, including another 32 in the third quarter. The Pacers were toying with a Magic defense frustrated with their inability to score and scrambling just to keep their head above water through three games in the Playoffs.
The Amway Center was dead. Players heads were hanging low. And Indiana could celebrate getting home court advantage back from Orlando with a 97-74 victory at Amway Center on Wednesday.
Stan Van Gundy came in to his postgame press conference and squarely said nobody did their jobs tonight. This was a “team loss.”
It was hard to argue as the Magic once again got off to a slow start and then came out of the locker room with a lack of focus and execution, failing to match the Pacers’ energy level at the gun.
Orlando again struggled to get good shots on a consistent basis. The team shot 42.3 percent from the floor, but the effect from Roy Hibbert was bigger than those numbers again. Hibbert had another three blocks and plenty more altered shots or abandoned drives. The Magic, and especially Jameer Nelson, were trying to get into the paint but often failed to turn the corner or abandoned the drive without an attempt at the rim. This often led to wild passes out to the perimeter and Indiana was fast enough to rotate back out and prevent Orlando from getting off too many 3-pointers.
The Magic shot 5 for 15 from beyond the arc. It is hard to figure out if the big problem is that Orlando made only five 3-pointers or that the team attempted only 15. That marks the fewest 3-point attempts for the Magic since March 2010. This has become a theme. Not only are the Magic not getting good 3-point opportunities… they are not getting any at all.
And without the 3-pointer, an important part of the Magic’s offensive attack is completely gone. And the score clearly shows that.
Indiana’s big key, early and often, was that it hit its 3-pointers. The Magic have spent a lot of their defensive strategy scrambling and trying to chase the Pacers off the 3-point line. But it seems to be the shot Orlando does not mind giving up. So when Indiana hits 8 of 20 and gets five from Danny Granger, that makes the job that much more difficult.
And with shots not falling again for Orlando, it seemed the team’s will was broken. The Pacers were able to get out on the break again and run roughshod over the Magic’s disheartened defense. Indiana went inside time and time again. The Pacers opening possession in the third quarter resulted in three offensive rebounds, although they did not score.
Orlando had no answer for Roy Hibbert as he was active around the basket, scoring 18 points with five offensive rebounds and 10 total rebounds. Indiana used its advantage inside greatly in this game.
The only answer the Magic had was the pick and roll with Glen Davis in the second quarter. Davis found a rhythm and was draining an 18-foot jumper with ease on his way to 22 points and 10-for-18 shooting. All but two of those points came in the second quarter as the Magic erased the deficit and came close to taking the lead.
Orlando never took the lead though. It was tantalizingly close though. And it was at this moment when the Magic were playing their best — when the offense was flowing and shots were going in.
For most of the game though, the shots were not falling. And that was the death knell for a team that is playing extremely hard just to remain competitive.
That does not seem to be enough. Because when the Pacers hit that extra gear, the Magic do not have much left in the reserves or much answers or confidence to keep fighting back. Not when the shots are not falling at least.
Orlando needs an injection of offense to solve its confidence and energy issues. Maybe they need some Dwight Howard too, but that will not be coming.
And the Magic now face a must-win in Game Four to avoid going back to Indianapolis facing elimination.