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Orlando Magic 118, Indiana Pacers 98

The Orlando Magic dominated the Indiana Pacers on Monday night, jumping out to a 42-18 lead after the first quarter and ultimately winning by a 118-98 final score. Vince Carter scored 14 of his game-high 21 points in the opening period to set the tone for Orlando on offense. The D started strong as well: in the first 5 minutes alone, Dwight Howard tallied 3 blocks and the Magic forced 4 Pacers turnovers. Carter was but one of 7 Magic players to score in double figures. Jameer Nelson had another strong all-around game with 15 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal, and just 2 turnovers. Indiana's starting lineup lagged, but the Pacers got great performances off the bench in rookie point guard A.J. Price (a team-high 19 points and a career-high-tying 5 three-pointers) and veteran swingman Mike Dunleavy (18 points on 7-of-11 shooting). More importantly than this game, though, was what took place a few hundred miles to the East. The Miami Heat knocked off the Philadelphia 76ers, 107-105, ensuring that the Magic will meet the Charlotte Bobcats when the first round of the playoffs kicks off this weekend.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Magic 102 116.0 55.8% 41.6 19.4 16.7
Pacers 99 98.6 46.6% 18.2 16.4 14.1
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.

Coach Stan Van Gundy said he was a bit worried about his team's energy in the locker room before the game, but the starters dashed any of those fears in the opening few minutes. The Magic put on a clinic, at both ends of the floor, and dazzled a more-packed-than-usual Conseco Fieldhouse with a variety of special plays; for me, Carter's one-handed stuff on center Roy Hibbert off Nelson's no-look, drop-off pass was the biggest highlight, though Howard's monstrous tomahawk slam after shedding Hibbert with an up-and-under fake also merits consideration. And Orlando made the most of its transition opportunities, punishing the Pacers--and particularly Brandon Rush--for throwing lazy passes.

The Pacers, to their credit, stuck with the game, and Dunleavy led a charge that trimmed the Magic's lead to just 9 points with less than a minute remaining in the second quarter. The second unit, and not the starters, wound up frittering that lead away. J.J. Redick, who finished with 11 points and 6 assists in just 17 minutes, and Jason Williams had some miscommunication issues with the Magic's frontcourt players, which led to some silly, uncharacteristic turnovers. Dunleavy and Dahntay Jones countered by pushing the tempo in transition, moving the ball, and drawing fouls; Indiana had four and-one chances in that period alone. Hardly anything went right for the Magic's usually solid second unit in the period.

But Nelson bailed the Magic out with a deep three-pointer to push the lead back to 12, then hit a pull-up jumper from about 17 feet with 0.8 seconds remaining to give Orlando some breathing room. And that was just about it. As the second half began, the Pacers again struggled to find openings in Orlando's defense, and the outcome was never really in doubt . Credit the Magic for playing focused an intense in a meaningless game, especially on the second night of a back-to-back, against a team that plays lightning quick.

Orlando can match last season's win total with a victory Wednesday night against Philadelphia. Van Gundy said he believes his team will still be focused and play with a purpose even though they it knows whom it'll face in the first round. After tonight's shellacking of Indiana, I'm inclined to agree.