Orlando is in a deep 3-1 hole in the series. The Magic have looked overmatched by the Pacers’ size and length at many times and they have struggled struggled to get their offense free and into a rhythm.
Except for a 14-0 run and 26-7 spurt to force overtime in Game Four, the Magic have struggled to establish themselves. Every game has really followed much of the same script.
Indiana’s starting lineup has consistently outworked Orlando and taken hold of the early lead in games. More importantly, they have used that starting lineup and energy at the beginning of the second half. The third quarter has been Indiana’s and Indiana’s alone.
It was where the Pacers erased a seven-point halftime deficit in Game One. Where the Pacers took control of Games Two and devasted the Magic in Game Three.
Game Four was the only time the Magic broke that script. Orlando was the one that ran out to an early lead, going up 16-10 midway through the first quarter. Of course, Orlando would not score a field goal for another nine minutes and Indiana put Orlando on ice, except for free throws that came from constant fouling from Lou Amundson and and 16 free throw attempts.
“There’s tough matchups both ways for both of those guys,” Stan Van Gundy said of defending Hibbert and West with Glen Davis and Ryan Anderson. “Hibbert is 7-2 and bigger than our guys. West is certainly stronger than Ryan on top of that. Those are tough matchups and we said at the beginning, their size and their inside presence and even their size on the wings is going to be a factor. We’ve done a decent job against their post up game andwe have to continue to find ways to do a better job.”
The third quarter, the Pacers starting lineup did seem to put the Magic on ice. Indiana scored the first six points of the quarter fairly quickly and opened up a 12-point lead with a 27-17 win in the quarter. It helped getting 12 points from David West and having no one who could defend him or double him fast enough.
The Pacers continued to put the Magic in a hole with their starting five of George Hill, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West and Roy Hibbert.
According to NBA.com, that lineup is +18.1 points per 100 possessions and averaging 95.4 points per 48 minutes. More impressively, this lineup is grabbing 61.0 percent of all rebounds.
The Magic’s starting lineup averaged only 85.3 points per 48 minutes and is shooting 39.2 percent from the floor. This field goal percentage is not far below what it was in the regular season for this group, but the lineups 13.9 free throw attempts per 48 minutes and 35.4 percent rebounding percentage is more than 10 percent below the lineup’s season average.
This is where the problem has been for the Magic as the points were not coming from this lineup anyway.
Before Game Four, Van Gundy talked to his five starters about what he needed from them at the beginning of the game. It was not a matter of score, but a matter of effort and energy at the beginning.
“What I am really looking for at the beginning of the game is how we’re running up and down the floor in both directions, our movement, our energy level,” Van Gundy said. “If we’ve got more of that, then they won’t be on a shorter leash. Because then it just comes down to stuff it should come down to in a basketball game.
“I think one of the problems we have had in second half of games, and we have to overcome, is they have worn us down a little bit. I don’t care what the sport is when you are constantly going out and battling bigger people, you tend to wear down a little bit.”
These statements from Van Gundy before Saturday’s game seemed somewhat proper in analysis of the game afterwards. Orlando did come out with a better energy level and the game did come down to what it should come down to — making and missing shots. Van Gundy said he has been happy with his team’s effort. He just needs tighter execution on both ends of the floor.
And that is where getting worn down in the second half with the Pacers size really seemed most prophetic. That trend continued through Game Four.
Until it didn’t, of course.
Game Four really seemed like the outlier in this series as the Magic got off to the strong start and it was the second unit putting the clamps on the Magic, including some stifling defense from Darren Collison on Chris Duhon. Of course, it was also the second unit lineup of Darren Collison, Leandro Barbosa, Tyler Hansbrough, David West and Danny Granger that was on the floor when the Magic began their 14-0 run.
The end result was not though. The Magic, like they have in all four games of this series, needed a comeback at the end to make things interesting (at best).
the only difference now is that the team has a very encouraging long stretch of play — about the final 8:26 of regulation — to ride as momentum heading into the do-or-die Game Five in Indianapolis.
How Orlando starts both halves could be the deciding factor in extending this series or seeing its conclusion Tuesday.
“They know the score,” Van Gundy said. “It’s 3-1 and it’s a matter of mindset and whether you think you’re still int he series or not. Based on what they did down 19 points today, my guess is that they aren’t going to quit on anything and that they are going to come out and play Tuesday night hard and damn well.”