It has been more than a decade since the Orlando Magic last won a playoff series. In each of their last three appearances however, the Magic won Game 1 despite being the lower seed.
That streak was started on this day 10 years ago. Jason Richardson’s late three-pointer put Orlando ahead for good in an 81-77 victory as the Magic took a 1-0 series lead over the Indiana Pacers.
The Magic were the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference as they arrived at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on April 28, 2012. Orlando however, was far from at full strength. The Magic were without star center Dwight Howard for the rest of the season and had gone just 4-6 to close the regular season in his absence.
Indiana was the No. 3 seed and not expected to struggle much with the Magic. In Game 1 however, Orlando made it clear that it was there to compete.
The Magic led 51-44 at the break. In the second half, the teams combined for just a paltry 63 points.
The Pacers trailed by one after three quarters, but appeared on the verge of seizing control midway through the final period. Tyler Hansbrough, David West and Paul George all scored baskets for Indiana during an 8-0 run during the fourth quarter.
With less than five minutes remaining, the Magic trailed 75-68. Indiana would score just two points the rest of the way.
A jumper from Jameer Nelson and a three-pointer from Richardson cut the deficit to 77-75 with less than three minutes to play. The teams combined to miss the next six shots from the field, but with 1:14 to play, Danny Granger went to the free throw line with the chance to give the Pacers a two-possession lead.
An 87% foul shooter for the season and an 85% shooter for his career, Granger inexplicably missed both free throws. The Magic took advantage.
Following a timeout, Richardson was able to knock down another trey with just over a minute to play. Orlando led 78-77. Still, Indiana had time.
Granger would get another good look near the rim, but was unable to convert. Richardson grabbed the rebound for the Magic. Following a Ryan Anderson miss on the other end, Glen Davis corralled an offensive board for Orlando and Nelson converted two free throws to push the lead to three with 24.5 seconds left.
Missed opportunities would be the story for the Pacers. After a long miss from Darren Collison, Orlando’s Earl Clark kept the door open with a pair of misses from the charity stripe.
With 7.5 seconds to go, Granger was called for traveling. J.J. Redick split a pair of free throws to put the game away for the Magic.
As a team, Indiana shot just 35% and missed its final nine shots. West led the Pacers with 19 points. Despite struggling down the stretch, Granger added 17 points in the loss.
Richardson and Nelson each finished with 17 points to lead the Magic. Davis added 16 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
Indiana would win the next four games and the series before ultimately falling to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. With a Game 1 victory however, the Magic sent a message that they weren’t going down without a fight. They pulled off that win on this day a decade ago.