A few observations and notes from the sixth-seeded Orlando Magic's heart-crushing overtime defeat against the third-seeded Indiana Pacers in Game Four of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series, as Indiana took a commanding three games to one lead...
The Magic scrap, nearly come up on top
Orlando nullified the Pacers' biggest advantages--namely size and speed--in Game Four with some hard work, but it didn't pay off. The Magic equaled the Pacers in points in the paint (42) and in fast-break points (six), while they only saw a two-point deficit in second-chance points (13-11 in Indy's favor).
But Orlando had to do most of that work in the second half, playing from behind, and one wonders if having to come back emptied the team's proverbial tank. The Magic outscored the Pacers in the paint, 32-22, after halftime. If they hadn't fallen behind by as many as 19, perhaps they would have had just enough to take a lead.
The Magic go small
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy's decision to go with a smaller lineup--playing Hedo Turkoglu at power forward, with Jason Richardson and J.J. Redick on the wings--helped his team get back into the game, and it's pretty clearly a tactic he needs to use in Game Five. Orlando's smallish lineup, which had Jameer Nelson at the point and Glen Davis at center, scored 26 points in 11 minutes, shooting 11-of-22 from the field with seven assists and no turnovers.
Van Gundy used that lineup for three minutes earlier in the playoffs and for just one minute (!) all year, so it's not a group used to playing with one another. But having Nelson, Redick, and Turkoglu available to handle the ball, with Glen Davis setting screens and Jason Richardson floating around the arc, gave Orlando plenty of options to confuse Indy's usually strong defense. As a bonus, this fivesome managed to grab two-thirds of available rebounds when on the floor.
Indiana gets caught ball-watching
The Pacers are a sound defensive group, but had their heads turned for much of the day defensively, and Orlando took advantage. The Magic's roll-men in pick-and-roll situations shot a blistering 10-of-13 from the floor (2-for-2 from three-point distance), while cutters shot 5-of-7, according to mySynergySports.com.
Pacers center Roy Hibbert has been monstrous defensively throughout this series, but Saturday's wasn't one of his better performances. Indy doesn't need to make many adjustments in order to advance--it's up, 3-1, after all--but pick-and-roll defense is a big area of concern for it, as Orlando will continue to run pick-and-roll action due to its lack of one-on-one playmakers and post-up threats.
The Pacers' second unit dominates again
Indiana boasts greater depth than one might think, and when Frank Vogel called on his reserves in Game Four, they delivered. Paired with starters David West and Paul George for seven minutes, the backup threesome of Darren Collison, Leandro Barbosa, and Tyler Hansbrough beasted the Magic. NBA.com's stats tool indicates that group outscored the Magic, 17-6, by shooting 50% from the floor, 50% on three-pointers, and grabbing 10 of 14 available rebounds.
In sum, Collison scored 11 points on 6 shots, while Hansbrough scored four points and snared five boards. Barbosa had just seven points in 29 minutes--a low figure for such a volume shooter--but he needed only four field-goal attempts to put up that number.
There's nothing Orlando can do to improve its roster at this late date, but the team simply has to play harder than Indy, especially off the bench. Vogel has the luxury of replacing his starters with energetic, productive reserves if they slack off; Van Gundy doesn't.
Chris Duhon continues to sink Orlando's offense
I hate to beat a dead horse, but this Magic team just grinds to a halt when Duhon replaces Nelson at the point. In a game they won by two points in overtime, the Pacers outscored Orlando by 15 with Duhon running the host's offense, and it's easy to see why. With Duhon at the helm, Orlando shot 3-of-11 from the floor for 11 points while committing a whopping seven turnovers. Duhon had two of those himself, while one of his mistakes directly led to a third one. Facing ball pressure from Collison, Duhon fumbled in Orlando's backcourt. Though he managed to rid himself of the ball, the Magic wound up not getting it across the timeline before eight seconds elapsed.
In his later stint at the helm, Duhon played off the ball with Turkoglu and Redick doing the handling chores. Van Gundy just can't continue to play Duhon, nor can he simply trot Nelson out for 48 minutes. It really is well past time for Van Gundy to call on Ish Smith, as it's clear that Duhon can't handle Indiana's defense. Though Smith can't shoot from anywhere, he's not at all turnover-prone and he can break down a defense off the dribble.