Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
With 8:14 left in the fourth quarter, the Orlando Magic were down by 19 points with the score at 82-63 in favor of the Indiana Pacers.
The Pacers, just like in Games 2 and 3, used a strong third quarter surge (outscoring the Magic by 10 points in the period) to increase their lead to double-digits heading into the fourth quarter. And early on in the period, it seemed like Indiana was going to blow Orlando out of the water and put them out of their misery.
Staring at a 19-point deficit and also a 3-1 series deficit, things were looking bleak for the Magic. But instead of rolling over, head coach Stan Van Gundy — ever the fighter — didn’t give up. Coming out of an official timeout, Van Gundy made an adjustment that sparked a 26-7 run to end the fourth quarter, culminating in Nelson getting a chance to win the game on Orlando’s final possession in regulation.
What adjustment was that?
With Ryan Anderson continuing to get bottled up by the Pacers in Game 4, just like in the first three games of the series, Van Gundy went small and rolled the dice with a 5-man unit of Nelson-Redick-J. Richardson-Turkoglu-Davis. It’s a lineup that played a total of one minute together in the regular season.
So you can forgive head coach Frank Vogel for not being prepared and expecting that lineup to take the floor for the Magic.
That small-ball unit for Orlando rolled off 14 consecutive points, to cut their deficit to five points with the score at 82-77, before Indiana responded with a basket of their own. At that point, the Magic — echoing the fighting spirit of Van Gundy — made it clear that they weren’t going to go down without a fight.
Which brings things back to Orlando’s final possession of the fourth quarter with the ball in Nelson’s hands. The Magic had burned their final timeout on the previous possession so after they forced a shot clock violation on the Pacers, Van Gundy could not call a timeout to draw up a play on the ensuing possession. That can be seen as a good or bad thing depending on your crunch time philosophy.
Nelson took Leandro Barbosa off the dribble, dribble penetrated into the lane, stopped on a dime (which made it tough for Barbosa to contest the shot), and hoisted up a fadeaway jumper that fell way short.
Could Orlando have gotten a better shot?
Maybe. It’s always easy to second-guess in retrospect.
Let’s fast-forward to overtime. After Hill’s two free-throws, which came after Nelson reached in as Hill dribble penetrated into the lane and tried to kick the basketball out to the perimeter (a foul was the correct call), the Magic had the ball with 2.2 seconds left with a chance to tie or go for the win.
Orlando tried to get the basketball to Redick off a double screen set by Anderson and Davis at the top of the key, but Indiana defended it perfectly. Davis simultaneously slipped the screen but the Pacers were prepared for that, too. Ultimately, Davis got the ball at the right elbow and hoisted up a fadeaway jumper over Paul George that missed short. It’s hard to say the Magic could have gotten a better shot on that possession.
So here we are. Orlando trails 3-1 in their first round playoff series against Indiana with elimination looming in Game 5 on Tuesday. No matter what happens, whether the Magic win or lose that game, they should be commended for fighting throughout the series. It speaks volumes to how the players have played hard for Van Gundy.
In turn, Orlando (the city and the franchise) should be proud.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
David West was the standout performer for the Pacers in Game 4, doing most of his damage in the third quarter (scoring 12 of his game-high 26 points in the period) while also chipping in offensively during the overtime session.
Hill drew a reach-in foul on Nelson with 2.2 seconds left in overtime with the Magic in the penalty, making both free-throws to give Indiana a 101-99 lead. That proved to be the game-winning sequence for the Pacers.
That Was … an Instant Classic
Orlando was down by as many as 19 points in the fourth quarter, yet rallied and forced overtime thanks to a 26-7 run. The Magic ultimately fell short after Davis missed a game-tying fallaway jumper with time expiring.