Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
By now you’ve heard. The third quarter of last night’s game between the Pacers and Magic seems to have been the series turning point for Indiana. Down a bucket at the half, the Pacers came out in the third and cold-cocked the Magic to the tune of a 30-13 quarter that provided the final margin of victory.
The question going forward is exactly what to make of that run. Was it an outlier or a harbinger? Was it a case of regression — the Pacers just starting to perform how we figured they always would — or was it a case of the Pacers playing exceptionally?
To my eye, there were four reasons the Pacers came alive in the third: 1.) they mauled the Magic on the glass, 2.) they converted at the line, 3.) they snuffed out most of Orlando’s initial actions on pick-and-rolls, and 4.) George Hill began once more to resemble a professional basketball player. Of these, we’ll ignore Hill’s resurfacing, for the simple reason that I have no idea whether he will again net 16 points on 8 shots, as he had at the end of last night’s third quarter.
I’ll focus first on the fouls and the rebounding, because they’re really two sides of the same coin. I hate to point this out, but the Pacers only shot 28 free throws last night, which is a totally reasonable figure for a team playing with the sort of interior advantage the Pacers have. Even though, at times, during the third quarter it seemed there was a whistle on every play, the Magic really can’t argue with a 28-19 free throw disparity in favor of Indiana given the stylistic and personnel differences. The rebounding? Stay with me, because this is where things get grim.
Look, the Pacers are going to outrebound the Magic. Even in Game 1, Indiana was +5 on the boards. The Pacers are a strong rebounding outfit no matter how you slice it — a top-five team in raw per-game rebounding and in offensive rebound percentage. However, they simply bludgeoned Orlando on the offensive glass last night, corralling 37.5 percent of their own misses. While this seems like a shocking figure, nearly 8 percentage points above Indiana’s season average, when you consider the fact that Indiana’s offensive rebound percentage in the Magic’s Game 1 win was 30.6 percent, it’s hard to come to the conclusion the Magic will remedy this situation.
So it’s easy to say that the Pacer’s 15-1 rebound run in the third quarter is an outlier, but in all likelihood, it was just a pretty fast regression to what we’re likely to see for this series.