(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
The Indiana Pacers exploded for 36 fourth-quarter points on Tuesday night, helping them rally from a third-quarter deficit to wallop the Orlando Magic, 105-87, and end Orlando's season. Darren Collison shot 7-of-7 from the field for 15 points in the final frame, in which Indiana went 15-of-20 from the floor while holding the winded Orlando squad to 5-of-16 shooting. Indiana advances to the postseason's second round for the first time since the 2004/05 season.
Jameer Nelson tallied team-highs with 27 points and five assists for Orlando and pitched in with four rebounds, but he and his mates likely expended all the energy they had just to win the third quarter for the first time all series. Nelson went 6-of-10 from the floor for 15 points in the 12 minutes after intermission, helping Orlando to take a 71-69 lead to the fourth. He broke the Pacers down with his dribble penetration early in the period with drives to the basket, which dribbling helped set up his outside shot for the remaining minutes as he drained three triples.
Collison's fourth-quarter heroics almost overshadow the brilliant work Danny Granger did, as the veteran small forward scored 12 of his team-high 25 points in the period. Orlando opened the frame with a lineup of Chris Duhon, J.J. Redick, Hedo Turkoglu, Earl Clark, and Glen Davis, a decision coach Stan Van Gundy may ultimately regret: by the time he replaced Duhon and Clark with Nelson and Anderson, respectively, the Pacers had taken a five-point edge and would never trail again.
|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.
Though Orlando's season ends in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight season, it'd be hard for Magic fans to ask much more of their team. Badly overmatched across the board, Orlando fought hard throughout the series and even stole the opening game on the road. Van Gundy made adjustments as best he could, with the limited roster he had and without Dwight Howard, the league's most dominant center, available, but it predictably wasn't enough to pose a credible threat to a deep, motivated, and well-coached Pacers squad.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel exploited one of his team's greatest advantages--its speed--against Orlando to open the fourth quarter, inserting reserve guards Collison and Leandro Barbosa. The Magic couldn't stay in front of either player, and penetration by both--but by Collison in particular--scrambled the Magic's defense. Barbosa made his only shot attempt of the period and dished two assists, while Collison added three dimes to his 15 points to put the nail in Orlando's coffin.
While Indiana celebrates and moves forward this season, Orlando faces a tense offseason, arguably the most pivotal in team history. Van Gundy is likely gone as coach, and Otis Smith, the team's President of Basketball Operations, ought to follow. Nelson, who shares co-captaincy duties with Howard and serves as the club's only NBA-caliber point guard, could become a free agent by declining his player option. Anderson, the NBA's Most Improved Player, enters restricted free agency and could sign a rich offer sheet elsewhere. Coming off a career year, Redick can also become a free agent if Orlando waives him before the start of free agency. Clark, who became a key situational player after Howard's season-ending injury, also has a player option.
The team that fell in Indy tonight will almost certainly not be the team that opens the 2012/13 season in late October or early November. Buckle up for a tumultuous few months.