Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY
Roy Hibbert set the tone defensively. Paul George set it offensively. And everything else seemed to spin off the momentum from those two players.
The Magic erased a 12-0 deficit to start the game and hung tough with the Pacers by attacking the basket — sometimes with reckless abandon — and forcing turnovers. It was miscues and immaturity though that ended up costing the Magic a chance to make a pretty large statement on opening night.
The Pacers turned a one-point game to a five-point one in the final six seconds of the third quarter. The Magic were called for a delay of game after touching the ball following a made basketball. After Lance Stephenson made the free throw, Paul George drained a heavily contested 3-pointer. Orlando lost its momentum and Indiana's bench awoke to build an 18-point lead and lead Indiana to a 97-87 win at Banker's Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday.
For a young team like Orlando, those little moments can be pretty critical. Even the usually composed Jacque Vaughn addressed the sequence and his disagreement with the call after the game. It was very much in the past, and this was one punch the Magic could not roll with.
Really, it was quite a miracle the Magic were in the game.
Roy Hibbert set the tone early on with 12 rebounds in the first quarter and helping propel the Pacers to a 12-0 start. Orlando's offense really struggled to get much going without the opportunity to get out into the open court and struggled even more collecting an offensive rebound.
Once the Magic settled down, the team began playing a solid brand of basketball.
Turnovers — 21 for the Pacers which turned into 21 points for the Magic — helped feed the Magic's offense and create opportunities to attack. Starter Jason Maxiell did a great job on David West all game long — the former All Star had 13 points on 4-for-11 shooting — and both Maxiell, Nikola Vucevic and Kyle O'Quinn did a nice job protecting the rim. Rare was the game last year when the Magic recorded six blocks and changed a few more.
The Magic's bench provided a nice lift too. Andrew Nicholson abused Luis Scola with his inside-outside game. Nicholson scored 18 points, all in the first half, as the Magic took the lead in the second quarter and held the Pacers to 17 points for the quarter.
Orlando was very much using its defense because the offense really struggled.
The Magic were aggressive. Give them credit for that. But Roy Hibbert was a tough guy to get over. Hibbert had seven of Indiana's 18 blocks in the game. It was tough for even an athletic player like Victor Oladipo to scale the mountain.
Give credit where credit is due however, the Magic kept trying to attack him and kept trying to draw fouls. The drawing fouls part did not work so well (like last year), but the level of assertiveness did. Orlando was putting a lot of pressure on Indiana's defense to make those plays.
Now, about making shots. The Magic made 38.7 percent of its field goals for the game and went through long scoring droughts — see beginning of first, third and fourth quarters. Those kind of droughts with a mix of youthful inconsistency on the defensive end was going to create problems. Particularly when the Pacers bench players began to show up.
That is not what the focus should be on in this first game. There were certainly first game hiccups with the veterans getting their first major run of the entire season.
The focus should be on the flashes of really good play the Magic displayed in the second quarter and late in the fourth quarter. Vaughn's calling card for this team remains. They will keep fighting. Even if there is a wall at the basket preventing their entry.