Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
If I were given only one word to describe the Orlando Magic’s season, turbulent would be it. And in that turbulence, the Magic persevered.
First it was “The Indecision.” Next it was the Stan Van Gundy vs. Dwight Howard saga. Then it was Dwight’s season-ending back surgery. And lastly it was Orlando’s first round loss to the Indiana Pacers in the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Did I mention there was a lockout during the offseason?
Through it all, the Magic showed a mental toughness and fighting spirit not seen since their Finals run in 2009. The difference, of course, between the two teams is is that the 2012 team was nowhere nearly as talented as their 2009 counterpart. That reality revealed itself in Orlando’s first round playoff series.
Despite Van Gundy coaching a hell of a series and players like Glen Davis giving everything they had, it wasn’t enough. The Pacers were the better team and they made that point loud and clear in Game 5.
And in a season that’s made no sense for the Magic in every sense of the word, it makes all the sense in the world that the script of the second half of Game 5 was nothing like the scripts of Games 1-4.
For a half, it seemed like Game 5 was going to follow the pattern of the previous four games. Indiana jumped out to a big first quarter lead, leading by as many as 15 points in the period. Then the bench got Orlando back into the game midway through the second quarter, with the starters eventually taking the reins and continuing the push up until halftime.
That’s when Game 5 diverted from the script.
Led by the All-Star version of Jameer Nelson, the Magic finally outscored the Pacers in the third quarter (24-19) for the first time in the series.
With a 71-69 lead heading in the fourth quarter, it seemed like Orlando was in prime position to extend their season for at least one more game. But it was to no avail, as Indiana blew the game wide open, dominating on both ends of the floor and outscoring the Magic 36-16 in the period.
All the energy that Orlando spent in the third quarter trying to take the lead away from the Pacers came back to bite them in the fourth quarter. Van Gundy tried to bide the starting lineup some time at the onset of the final period, but Indiana’s second unit — led by Darren Collison — built up a lead quickly. Van Gundy was forced to rush the starters back onto the court, but it was too late. Guys like Davis (who couldn’t even reenter the game) and Nelson were gassed. In turn, Indiana took full advantage with their depth.
Like they had all series long, the Magic fought but it wasn’t enough.
Yes, Orlando lost the series and their season is over. However, in the eyes of Magic fans, the players and coaching staff should be seen as winners for handling such a tumultuous season (especially Davis, who had to deal with the death of his grandmother and biological father) with a high display of character. Well, everyone except for Dwight.
A franchise-defining offseason awaits for Orlando.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
The game changed, and the series ended, with Collison’s outburst in the fourth quarter of Game 5. He scored 15 of his 19 points in the period, dealing a fatal blow to the Magic’s season.
After Nelson made a layup in a 1/5 pick-and-roll with Davis to cut Orlando’s deficit to three points with the score at 83-80 and 7:48 left in the fourth quarter, the Pacers finished the game on a 22-7 run.
That Was … No Asterisk
Dwight’s presence would have changed the landscape of the series entirely (Vogel knows that more than anyone), but injuries happen. Indiana deserves credit for beating the team that was placed in front of them.