AP Photo/John Raoux
This is all you need to know after the Indiana Pacers beat the Orlando Magic on the road in Game 3 by the score of 97-74 to take a 2-1 series lead in their best-of-seven first round playoff matchup.
In 63 minutes, the Pacers’ starting lineup (Hill-George-Granger-West-Hibbert) has outscored the Magic by 37.4 points per 100 possessions. On the flipside, in 58 minutes, Orlando’s starting lineup (Nelson-J. Richardson-Turkoglu-Anderson-Davis) has been outscored by Indiana by 32.3 points per 100 possessions.
Only when the Magic tap into their bench do they start to see positive trends on the court. In 18 minutes, Orlando’s second-most used lineup of Duhon-Redick-Q. Richardson-Clark-Davis has outscored the Pacers by 4.6 points per 100 possessions.
Those numbers are after three games.
There’s more lineup data, but let’s concentrate on those three 5-man units because they basically tell the story of Game 3 (not to mention Indiana’s continued third quarter dominance also dictating the outcome of the game).
Like in Games 1 and 2, the Pacers’ starters jumped out to an early lead against the Magic’s starters in the first quarter. And just like in Games 1 and 2, Orlando’s bench was able to cut into their deficit with a strong second quarter. And just like in Game 2, Indiana’s starters blew the game wide open in the third quarter with an extended run of dominance.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
It’s hard not to connect the dots here. The Pacers’ starting five is sorely outplaying the Magic right now, while Orlando’s starting five is being sorely outplayed by Indiana.
On Wednesday, Hibbert and Granger had their best games of the series up to this point, making their presence felt the most in the third quarter in which Indiana put the game away. In the period, Hibbert’s length was too much for the Magic to deal with, as he was able to his spots on the low block with ease and without his hook shots getting contested while also hitting the glass for offensive rebound putbacks. As for Granger, he caught fire on the perimeter with that quick-trigger release of his.
Paul George was the third man of a three-man wrecking crew for the Pacers in the third quarter, doing his damage by attacking the rim. All in all, Hibbert, Granger, and George accounted for 28 of Indiana’s 32 points in the period.
That aforementioned second unit for Orlando has done a good job of cutting into second quarter deficits once the starters come out of the game after slow first quarter starts, but it makes almost no difference when those same starters get ran out of the gym as they have been in third quarters. The Magic can’t afford to keep playing catch-up against Indiana — their margin for error is small as it is.
To be frank, for Orlando to have any chance to come back in this series, head coach Stan Van Gundy has to make a change in the starting lineup. If not, then the Magic aren’t going to last much longer in the postseason. The clock is ticking for Orlando.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
Granger (26 points and nine rebounds) and Hibbert (18 points and 10 rebounds) were the “co-MVPs” of Game 3. Granger and Hibbert combined for 21 of the Pacers’ 32 points in another game-changing third quarter for Indiana.
LVP (Least Valuable Player)
Outside of Glen Davis and J.J. Redick, no one else for the Magic had much success against the Pacers. So go ahead and hand out “LVPs” to guys like Ryan Anderson, Jameer Nelson, among others. They stunk.
It’s no secret that Indiana was one of the best third-quarter teams in the NBA during the regular season. The Pacers proved that in Games 2 and 3, putting both games out of reach with dominant third quarters.