Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE
The Indiana Pacers cruised to a 97-74 win against the Orlando Magic in Game Three of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series on Wednesday night, regaining homecourt advantage in a rout behind 26 points from Danny Granger and a dominant all-around performance by Roy Hibbert. The fourth-year center scored an effortless 18 points, hauled in 10 rebounds, and blocked three shots in the victory. Magic center Glen Davis scored 16 of his 22 points in the second period, wherein Orlando closed the halftime gap to six points, but neither Davis nor his teammates made much of an impact in the second half as the Pacers seized command of the game.
Granger, who shot 34.1 percent from the floor in the two games in Indianapolis, shook off that shooting slump en route to an efficient night as he scored with ease against Orlando's defenders. The New Mexico product shot 9-of-16 from the floor for 26 points and made as many three-pointers himself (five) as Orlando did collectively. His nine boards, three assists, and two steals do more than offset his five turnovers.
The game changed dramatically in the third period, which has been throughout this series when the Pacers do their best work. Indy routed the Magic, 32-17, in the period and built a 23-point lead at one juncture before Orlando managed to trim its deficit to 21 points entering the fourth. Hibbert came alive in the third, scoring 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting with five rebounds; his energy at both ends of the floor bedeviled the Magic, who adjusted their defense at halftime by switching Ryan Anderson to Hibbert and Davis onto David West. Thanks in large part to Davis' defense, West shot only 1-of-5 for two points in the period, but Hibbert's dominance inside made it a moot point.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's regular-season average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's regular-season average.
Wednesday's blowout demonstrated something many analysts, your correspondent included, thought would be a huge factor even before the series began: the Pacers simply have too many weapons for Orlando to hang with them. Even with West, arguably the Pacers' best player through the first two games of the series, held in check all night, Indiana still placed five players in double figures and shot 52.6 percent through the first three quarters before emptying its bench for the fourth. Orlando plays hard and is reasonably well prepared, but has neither the personnel nor the depth to counter Indy offensively.
There's also the matter of the Magic's lack of offense, which has proven constant throughout the series. Were it not for Davis' mid-range-jumper-fueled eruption in the second quarter, Orlando might have lost by 30 or more. Its problem isn't simply missing shots: it's finding them. The Magic have to labor terribly hard just to create a clean look. That might not be such a problem if they could find ways to get to the line, or to limit turnovers, but they haven't been able to throughout the series. Orlando took just 18 free throws--nine of them in the essentially meaningless fourth quarter--on Wednesday and committed 17 turnovers for 27 Pacers points. There's just no way for a team as outclassed, from a talent standpoint, as Orlando to win when it shoots itself in the foot like that.
Indiana now has momentum and homecourt advantage on its side, while Orlando is left looking for answers on both ends of the floor. After a dominant defensive performance in its Game One upset, the Magic have wilted, and can't seem to get many stops. Their offensive struggles have been constant against this Pacers team, which boasts excellent coaching and preparation in addition to its innate advantages in speed and size.
The Magic look to even the series at two games apiece Saturday in Game Four, with a 2 PM tipoff on ESPN nationally and on Fox Sports Florida in the Orlando market.