Orlando Magic Grades: Indiana Pacers 120, Orlando Magic 109

The Orlando Magic were unable to complete a comeback after a subpar defensive showing in the first half, giving the team their first loss in the seeding games.

Orlando Magic
109
Indiana Pacers
120

The Orlando Magic ran into the Indiana Pacers on the wrong night.

From the tip, the Pacers were unconscious from 3-point range. After allowing buckets on the first two possessions, it was clear the Magic were going to struggle with rotations on the defensive end all night.

And far too often the Magic’s misses led to defensive indifference or a team stretched too thin to get out to open shooters. The Pacers were going to make them pay, as playoff-caliber teams do.

In the first quarter, Indiana got out to 16-3 lead and never looked back for a 120-109 win on Tuesday.

The Magic had trouble stopping dribble penetration all night, but most glaringly as the game began. This created space for open shots for the Pacers. And T.J. Warren continued right where he left off so far in the bubble, hitting every shot attempt in the first half.

In the first quarter alone, the Pacers scored 43 points, hit seven 3-pointers, and shot 70 percent from the field. Those stats right there are enough to sum up the entire night. It is rare to bounce back from a quarter like that.

Down 21 points, the Magic were climbing out of a very deep hole.

The Magic showed signs of life throughout the game, cutting the lead to as little as 12 in the third quarter and then to nine late in the fourth. But they just could not string together enough stops to make a real dent in the deficit.

The Pacers weathered every storm.

The Magic showed great energy recovering and trying to fight back in stretches. They actually commanded most of the interior, as Nikola Vucevic began to go to work. On the defensive end, they continued to defend the Indiana pick-and-roll, giving up wide-open lay-ups and three’s.

Had it not been for Terrance Ross’ 20-point outburst in the second half, the Orlando guards would have been severely outplayed. Both D.J. Augustin and Markelle Fultz struggled to defend at the point of attack and Evan Fournier had one of his poorer shooting nights in recent memory.

Losses like this happen to the best of teams so there is no need to panic moving forward. There is just disappointment the Magic did not make the most of this opportunity to secure a needed win over a playoff-caliber team — a team the Magic want to usurp at some point in the future.

Coach Steve Clifford was certainly disappointed with the team, calling the effort unacceptable.

The Pacers had a hot shooting night early and Magic dug themselves into too big of a hole. The most concerning takeaway is simply the lack of energy and poor rotating on the defensive end.

Nikola Vucevic was one of the lone bright spots for the Orlando Magic. He was the only player on the Magic who put together a complete effort all game.

Posting a stat-line of 24 points, 10 rebounds and two assists, Vucevic did most of his damage on offense shooting from the perimeter — knocking down 2 3-pointers and multiple midrange jumpers. The Magic have turned the Vucevic “pick-and-pop” into their offensive staple, certainly when all else is failing. He got himself going especially in the second half, giving the Magic a small chance to come back.

On the defensive side, Nikola Vucevic held his own guarding Myles Turner, who is always a tough cover. Turner had little luck scoring inside, but did plenty of damage from the perimeter. It will be important to see how Vucevic continues to fair defending the pick-and-roll, considering a first-round match-up with the Toronto Raptors or Milwaukee Bucks is on the horizon.

" >

NIKOLA VUCEVIC

C, Orlando Magic

B

Nikola Vucevic was one of the lone bright spots for the Orlando Magic. He was the only player on the Magic who put together a complete effort all game.

Posting a stat-line of 24 points, 10 rebounds and two assists, Vucevic did most of his damage on offense shooting from the perimeter — knocking down 2 3-pointers and multiple midrange jumpers. The Magic have turned the Vucevic “pick-and-pop” into their offensive staple, certainly when all else is failing. He got himself going especially in the second half, giving the Magic a small chance to come back.

On the defensive side, Nikola Vucevic held his own guarding Myles Turner, who is always a tough cover. Turner had little luck scoring inside, but did plenty of damage from the perimeter. It will be important to see how Vucevic continues to fair defending the pick-and-roll, considering a first-round match-up with the Toronto Raptors or Milwaukee Bucks is on the horizon.

Aaron Gordon played well in spurts, but foul trouble kept him sidelined during a critical portion of the third quarter. This is something to watch moving forward, as the Magic simply cannot afford to have Aaron Gordon on the bench. Steve Clifford seemed to feel the same way, playing him 33 minutes, including the entire first quarter. The Magic simply do not have depth now behind Gordon at the 4 or a defensive-minded player to fall back on.

Gordon put up a good stat line with 20 points, seven rebounds and three assists. He was aggressive and looked to get to the basket, willing to make T.J. Warren work on the low post. Gordon seemed determined to carry the Magic offensively and will them back into the game. If it were not for Gordon’s energy in the first half, the score may have been even more lopsided. When he wasn’t serving as the fulcrum of the offensive, he was bailing on the team by creating a shot.

Gordon’s defense on TJ Warren was spotty at times, especially during the first quarter. Once the playoffs begin, Gordon will likely have a tough cover every night so improvement is needed here.

" >

AARON GORDON

F, Orlando Magic

B

Aaron Gordon played well in spurts, but foul trouble kept him sidelined during a critical portion of the third quarter. This is something to watch moving forward, as the Magic simply cannot afford to have Aaron Gordon on the bench. Steve Clifford seemed to feel the same way, playing him 33 minutes, including the entire first quarter. The Magic simply do not have depth now behind Gordon at the 4 or a defensive-minded player to fall back on.

Gordon put up a good stat line with 20 points, seven rebounds and three assists. He was aggressive and looked to get to the basket, willing to make T.J. Warren work on the low post. Gordon seemed determined to carry the Magic offensively and will them back into the game. If it were not for Gordon’s energy in the first half, the score may have been even more lopsided. When he wasn’t serving as the fulcrum of the offensive, he was bailing on the team by creating a shot.

Gordon’s defense on TJ Warren was spotty at times, especially during the first quarter. Once the playoffs begin, Gordon will likely have a tough cover every night so improvement is needed here.

Terrence Ross. After a scoreless first half, Terrence Ross knew it would take hot shooting to even give the Magic a shot at a comeback. Ross did not waste any time getting started in the third quarter. He was fouled on back-to-back 3-point attempts, sinking all six free throws. Little by little the shots began to fall and before you know it, he was on fire.

Ross finished the game with 20 points, while sinking three 3-pointers. He was also 9 for 9 from the free-throw line in total. This is the type of player he is and this type of scoring off the bench will be imperative for the Magic moving forward.

Although the Magic are looking for a more complete performance out of Ross, this second half should be a foundation to build on. As we’ve seen so far in the bubble, once a shooter gets going it can continue game after game.

" >

TERRENCE ROSS

G, Orlando Magic

B-

It was the tale of two halves for Terrence Ross. After a scoreless first half, Terrence Ross knew it would take hot shooting to even give the Magic a shot at a comeback. Ross did not waste any time getting started in the third quarter. He was fouled on back-to-back 3-point attempts, sinking all six free throws. Little by little the shots began to fall and before you know it, he was on fire.

Ross finished the game with 20 points, while sinking three 3-pointers. He was also 9 for 9 from the free-throw line in total. This is the type of player he is and this type of scoring off the bench will be imperative for the Magic moving forward.

Although the Magic are looking for a more complete performance out of Ross, this second half should be a foundation to build on. As we’ve seen so far in the bubble, once a shooter gets going it can continue game after game.

Markelle Fultz continued to show positive signs on offense. He showed good command of the second unit, outplaying starting guard D.J. Augustin. Steve Clifford may consider bringing Fultz to hopefully avoid slow starts like this one for the Magic. Clifford said after the game Fultz’s conditioning continues to improve — he played 23:26 in the game.

Fultz’s stats left much to be desired (10 points, three rebounds and three assists), but the main takeaway here is that his jump shot continues to look better and better. He was 100-percent from the 3-point line, sinking two open jumpers. He has to continue to be aggressive and confident in his shot.

But the biggest complaint here, and one that needs to be addressed by the Magic coaching staff, is Fultz’s inability to stop dribble penetration. Indiana Pacers backup guard T.J. McConnell was able to do whatever he wanted on offense. This is not to put all of the blame on Fultz as the Magic help defense was not great. But as the point of attack on defense, you can not continue to let the opponents guard drive all the way to the paint on every play. Fultz has the athletic ability and body to be a great defender. It will just need to come with time.

" >

MARKELLE FULTZ

G, Orlando Magic

C-

Markelle Fultz continued to show positive signs on offense. He showed good command of the second unit, outplaying starting guard D.J. Augustin. Steve Clifford may consider bringing Fultz to hopefully avoid slow starts like this one for the Magic. Clifford said after the game Fultz’s conditioning continues to improve — he played 23:26 in the game.

Fultz’s stats left much to be desired (10 points, three rebounds and three assists), but the main takeaway here is that his jump shot continues to look better and better. He was 100-percent from the 3-point line, sinking two open jumpers. He has to continue to be aggressive and confident in his shot.

But the biggest complaint here, and one that needs to be addressed by the Magic coaching staff, is Fultz’s inability to stop dribble penetration. Indiana Pacers backup guard T.J. McConnell was able to do whatever he wanted on offense. This is not to put all of the blame on Fultz as the Magic help defense was not great. But as the point of attack on defense, you can not continue to let the opponents guard drive all the way to the paint on every play. Fultz has the athletic ability and body to be a great defender. It will just need to come with time.

INDIANA PACERS

42-26, 5th in East

A+

The Indiana Pacers scored 43 points in the first quarter on 70-percent shooting, while hitting seven 3-pointers. It is that simple. The Pacers, for the entire first half, shot the ball better than any team we have seen so far in the bubble. And they did it with ease, tearing up the Magic’s lackadaisical or “mindless” defense.

This all starts with TJ Warren, who ended the game with 32 points on 13-for-17 shooting, 4 for 5 from three. Warren has been far and away from the biggest breakout star so far in the seeding games, averaging 39.6 ppg in three games.

As a team, the Pacers finished shooting 54.8 percent from the field as the “law of averages” worked against them, but that is still impressive. The most notable things the Pacers do, and have done all season, is space the floor and swing the ball. They are leading the NBA in mid-range scoring and it seems like their coaching staff has encouraged players to take a step back and launch more threes. They were lethal and efficient and the Magic never threatened them.

The Orlando Magic drop back to eighth in the Eastern Conference after the Brooklyn Nets stunned the Bucks 119-116.

The Orlando Magic will clinch a playoff berth with any combination of two wins or two Washington Wizards losses.

The Orlando Magic get right back at it Wednesday versus the Toronto Raptors, for their lone back-to-back inside the campus.