2012 NBA Playoffs, Pacers vs. Magic: Analysis and Trends from Game One

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

A few observations and notes from the sixth-seeded Orlando Magic's surprising, hard-fought upset victory against the third-seeded Indiana Pacers in Game One of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series...

Roy Hibbert hosts block party, avoids foul trouble
Indiana's 7-foot-2 behemoth of a center blocked nine shots on Saturday, besting his previous career-high by three. What's more impressive, however, is that he tallied those nine rejections while only committing two fouls, becoming the first NBAer to swat seven shots or more with two fouls or fewer in a playoff game since Kendrick Perkins in 2009. Different officiating crews would not have been as lenient with Hibbert as Saturday's was, and it's entirely possible he could make the exact same plays in Game Two, but wind up with four fouls in 17 minutes instead.

Orlando has to work its way to the foul line by continuing to challenge Hibbert. Though he's lowered his foul rate in each of his first four seasons, he's still foul-prone, and he won't keep getting the benefit of the non-whistle. The likes of Glen Davis and Earl Clark can't let Hibbert's size and shot-blocking skill deter them from taking the ball at him.

Stan Van Gundy relies heavily on starters
Orlando's starting unit of Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Ryan Anderson, and Davis played 24 minutes together Saturday, according to NBA.com's stats tool. No other Magic lineup logged more than five minutes together. Contrast that approach with Frank Vogel's: the Pacers' head coach called on his starting unit to play only 19 minutes together, due in large part to his decision to play Darren Collison in George Hill's stead for all but ten seconds of the fourth quarter.

That choice proved disastrous. Collison shot just 1-of-3 from the field in the fourth, and though he did dish three assists to no turnovers, the offense collapsed without Hill in the game, scoring just 69 points per 100 possessions.

Orlando's offense sinks with Chris Duhon in the game
Were it not for Duhon's travel dance, we'd remember his performance Saturday for less hilarious reasons. Orlando's offense ground to a halt with the former Duke Blue Devil at the helm, netting just 88.9 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor in his 10 minutes. Duhon dished one assist and committed two turnovers in Game One, and his inability to handle pressure from Collison and George robbed the Magic of precious time to get into their offense. 11 of the 14 shots Orlando took with Duhon at the helm were from mid-range or three-point land, which does not paint the picture of an offense that's making the defense work especially hard.

The Pacers fail to exploit their post-up advantage
Conventional wisdom says Orlando simply doesn't have enough size to compensate for Indy's monstrous front line of Hibbert, David West, and Danny Granger. The Pacers' back-to-basket superiority should have led to Indiana dominance in the series and an easy win.

All that's true on paper, but it didn't happen on the court Saturday. According to mySynergySports.com, Indiana ran 20 post-ups in Game One--more than any other play type--but scored on seven of them and shot just 5-of-16 from the floor. Hibbert went just 1-of-6. Because of the Pacers' lethal outside shooters, the Magic can't afford to double-team in the post too often; they just have to play sound, man-up defense.

Vogel isn't going to abandon his offensive gameplan after one loss, and it'd be silly of the Pacers not to try pounding the smallish Magic inside. But if nothing else, Indy's back-to-basket struggles Saturday demonstrate Orlando isn't going to let its lack of size prevent it from giving its best defensive effort on the block.

Indiana, its own worst free-throw enemy
The Pacers finished the regular season shooting 78.2 percent at the foul line, tied for third-best in the league. But they wilted Saturday, missing nine of their 22 attempts for a 59.1 percent conversion rate. Hibbert (71.1 percent on the year), Granger (87.3 percent), and Leandro Barbosa (81.5 percent) went an appalling 3-of-8 between themselves.

It's unlikely that Indiana will continue to struggle so mightily at the foul line in the future. The Magic will have to clean up in other areas defensively in order to compensate for the Pacers' almost certain improvement at the stripe.

Hedo Turkoglu keeps Danny Granger in check
Granger scored 17 points for Indiana on Saturday, second only to David West on the team, but shot just 7-of-20 from the floor to get there. Much of the credit goes to Turkoglu, in just his second game back after undergoing surgery to repair fractures in his right cheek. Turkoglu is by no means an ace defender, but at 6-foot-10, he has enough of a size advantage on Granger, at 6-foot-8, to make the former All-Star's life difficult offensively.

Turkoglu certainly had help, however: nine of Granger's 20 shot attempts came near the restricted circle, NBA.com's stats tool says, but he converted only four of them. Clark, Anderson, and Davis helped shut the paint down when Granger got the step on Turkoglu, and when Turkoglu did manage to keep Granger in front of him, he did his best to force him into an awkward shot.

Before the game, some fans expressed frustration with Van Gundy for going with Turkoglu ahead of J.J. Redick, who had moved into the starting lineup while Turkoglu rehabbed from surgery. Van Gundy's call was the right one, though, as keeping Redick in the starting five would have meant Jason Richardson covering Granger, a matchup the Pacers forward could exploit with ease.

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