AP Photo/Darron Cummings
In the first half of Game 2 between the Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers, you couldn’t help but think you were watching a rerun of Game 1 on NBA TV. After a quick start from the Pacers, in which they jumped out to an 11-point lead midway through the first quarter, the Magic slowly chipped away at their deficit and finally gained control of the game in the second quarter.
Just like Game 1.
Except this time, instead of Jameer Nelson picking apart Indiana’s defense in pick-and-roll sets, like he did in the second quarter of Game 1 to help Orlando jump out to a modest lead, it was the defense and Glen Davis that turned the tide momentarily in favor of the Magic in the second quarter of Game 2.
Granted, the Pacers missed some open shots but Orlando contested almost every other shot attempt. Once again, Earl Clark was one of the leading factors of the Magic’s heightened defensive intensity, coming off the bench and giving head coach Stan Van Gundy productive minutes in the period. It wasn’t just Clark giving it his all on defense, either.
Davis was a man possessed in the second quarter, playing with “no conscious” as he put it during his halftime interview. Davis’ energy and effort was off the charts, both on offense where he reeled off eight consecutive points to close out the period and on defense where the likes of Roy Hibbert offensively. Davis fought like it was no tomorrow and at that point in the game, there was no one for Indiana that was willing to match that intensity level.
Perhaps what aided Orlando the most, though, in the first half was their offensive rebounding and three-point shooting. Although the Magic (31.9 percent) shot much worse than the Pacers (47.2 percent) from the floor in the first and second quarters, 12 offensive rebounds (compared to just four for Indiana) allowed Orlando to put up 11 more shot attempts. And considering the Magic made six three-pointers in the first half compared to zero for the Pacers, that explains why Orlando was able to circumvent poor shooting to carry a 44-42 lead into halftime.
Then the third quarter happened.
For those that don’t know, during the regular season, Indiana was one of the best third quarter teams in the NBA. The Pacers’ efficiency differential in third quarters was +9.0, which ranked third in the league this season (only the Philadelphia 76ers were Portland Trail Blazers were better).
So it should come as no surprise, then, that the Magic were seemingly overwhelmed in the third quarter. Indiana came out with their best punch yet of the series, playing like the “uptempo, power post team” that they should be. Orlando, quite frankly, didn’t know how to respond to the Pacers taking things to another gear.
The key difference in the third quarter?
Those offensive rebounds that served as a lifeboat for the Magic when they missed shots? Gone. Indiana out-rebounded Orlando 16-4 in the third quarter. That hurt the Magic, as they were held to one shot on practically every possession in the period and couldn’t respond to the Pacers’ extended run that ended up deciding the game.
After a Game 1 loss to Orlando, Indiana responded in kind.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
George Hill scored 12 of his 18 points in the third quarter, serving as the catalyst of the Pacers’ game-changing quarter that helped them win Game 2 (outscoring the Magic 30-13 in the period) after trailing 44-42 at halftime.
Orlando outscored Indiana 65-63 in three of the four quarters. The problem is that the Magic got beat badly in the third quarter. The Pacers upped their energy level in that period and completely outplayed Orlando at both ends.
That Was … Important
Game 2 technically wasn’t a must-win for Indiana since they weren’t trying to stave off elimination. However, in NBA history, teams that go up 2-0 in a playoff series win 94.2 percent of the time. The Pacers avoid that scenario.
Statistical support for this story from NBA.com.