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In a game that was pretty much over with in the first quarter, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Indiana Pacers by the score of 118-98 for their fifth win in a row. As an aside, the Magic now know their first round opponent is the Charlotte Bobcats after the Miami Heat beat the Philadelphia 76ers to assure that the Bobcats get the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. Anyways, seven players scored in double-figures for the Magic but it was the starters that led a balanced attack against the Pacers when things mattered. Orlando’s starting backcourt played well, in particular, as Vince Carter had 21 points on 11 shots and Jameer Nelson had 15 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, and only two turnovers. Indiana’s lone star, Danny Granger, was held to 18 points on 19 shots.
As previously mentioned, the Magic put the game away in the first quarter as they stormed out of the locker room at Conseco Fieldhouse and threw haymakers against the Pacers in the form of blocks, dunks, and threes. Orlando simply overpowered Indiana on both ends of the floor, especially on defense. Dwight Howard set the tone early and often defensively, blocking three shots in the first four minutes of the game and single-handedly throwing Indiana’s offense — which isn’t good to begin with, ranking 26th in Offensive Rating — out of whack. As such, the Magic were able to get out and run in transition quite a bit in the first quarter, making things look easy on offense and scoring 42 points in the period, tying a season-high for most points scored in a quarter.
The Pacers kept things interesting, though, in the second quarter by speeding up the pace of the game and thoroughly outplaying the Magic. All of a sudden, Indiana exhibited the effort and energy that gave Orlando their huge lead and slowly cut into the deficit, getting to within nine points with 47 seconds left in the period. However, that would be the closest Indiana got on the scoreboard. Back-to-back jumpers by Nelson increased the margin to 14 for the Magic at halftime and the rest, as they say, was history. Orlando buckled down on defense in the third quarter, slowed down the tempo, and stretched the lead out to as much as 26 in the period before ultimately winning by 20 when it was all said and done.
Even though it was a team effort for the Magic in the win, it should be noted that Carter and Nelson performed magnificently. For Carter, he did a great job of attacking the basket and getting to the free-throw line 11 times, thus having the type of efficient night that is always a welcome sight. For Nelson, his ability to distribute the basketball to his teammates, whether it was in half-court sets or on fast breaks, and execute the 1/5 pick and roll with Howard throughout the evening played a huge role in Orlando’s victory.
It was a well-rounded game for Nelson and the type of game the Magic will need from him consistently once the playoffs begin on Saturday.