A few observations and notes from the sixth-seeded Orlando Magic's blowout loss to the third-seeded Indiana Pacers in Game Two of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series, as Indiana evened the series at one win apiece...
Orlando's starting five gets badly outworked everywhere
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy continues to ride his starters hard, as the fivesome of Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Ryan Anderson, and Glen Davis shared the floor for 18 minutes of the Game Two defeat, according to NBA.com's stats tool. No other Magic lineup logged more than six minutes together.
Going with the starters isn't a bad move in and of itself, but the Magic's opening group simply has to play better, as the Pacers demolished it in every phase of the game. Orlando's starters went 10-of-31 (32.3 percent) from the field when on the floor together and grabbed only 10 of an available 34 rebounds (29.4 percent). Indiana's got a huge size advantage on the Magic, as it boasts a pair of 6-foot-8 forwards (Danny Granger and David West) as well as a 7-foot-3 monster (Roy Hibbert) on the front line. Orlando counters with Turkoglu and Anderson, both at 6-foot-10, as well as the 6-foot-8 Davis. That's not enough, and the group has to play harder to compensate for its severe disadvantage in that area.
"A lot of it is their defense and a lot of it is our starters are coming out of the locker room with nothing in terms of energy," Van Gundy said after Monday's loss, according to John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com. "We're actually going to have to talk about that because they are absolutely bringing nothing to the game."
Indiana has outscored Orlando by 11 points in the series overall, but with the Magic's starters on the floor, that deficit stands at 15 points. Orlando's other lineups, however infrequently used, own a four-point edge on Indy through the first 96 minutes of the series.
Indiana continues third-period dominance
The Pacers took command of Game Two with a third-quarter blowout in which starting point guard George Hill nearly outscored Orlando by himself, 13-12. Indiana grabbed 16 of the 20 available rebounds in the frame, forced more Magic turnovers (six) than baskets (five), and shot 45 percent from the field.
That was an exaggeration of what happened Saturday in the series opener, when the Pacers outscored the Magic, 19-13, to draw to within one point entering the fourth. And this problem, again, ties into Orlando's starters just not having much energy to start the third, as Van Gundy mentioned.
David West's silent destruction of Ryan Anderson
West is having one whale of a Playoffs, as he leads Indiana in scoring (18.5) and assists (three per game, double that of any of his teammates) and ranks second in rebounding (10). He's having his way with Anderson at the offensive end while helping to nullify the fourth-year forward at the other.
Anderson's shooting 31.3 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from three-point range, which percentages actually stand as career-playoff bests for him, to give you an idea of how poorly he's played in the postseason throughout his brief career. But Orlando can't hope to win many games in which Anderson, its second-leading scorer in the regular season, scores just eight points per game.
What's arguably more remarkable than Anderson's low percentages is how little he's involved in the offense. He's averaging just 8.7 field-goal attempts per 36 minutes in the playoffs, as compared to 13.9 in the regular season, while his usage rate--or the percentage of Orlando's possessions he ends via a shot attempt, free throw attempt,or turnover while on the floor--has dipped to 13.8 from 21.2.
With West's savvy on- and off-ball defense, the Pacers have turned Anderson into a low-rent version of Vladimir Radmanovic.
Orlando's pick-and-roll game suffers
The Pacers own advantages in terms of size and speed against this undermanned Magic team, meaning Orlando has to outwork the Pacers in order to score; it can't dump the ball inside to a big guy, or beat Indiana off the dribble.
The solution in Game One--and, really, ever since Dwight Howard underwent season-ending back surgery--was to run pick-and-roll on every trip, varying the point of attack and the screening action so as to scramble the defense and to create openings for shooters.
The Magic tried the same tactic in Game Two, but failed miserably. When ballhandlers in the pick-and-roll took the shot themselves, they missed 15 of 17 tries, according to mySynergySports.com, and committed eight turnovers. If the Pacers truly have found a way to bottle up those pick-and-rolls, then this series will end in their favor sooner rather than later.