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May 1, 2012
Playoff Prospectus
Game of Adjustments

by Bradford Doolittle


at Indiana 93, Orlando 78 (Series tied 1-1)
Pace: 82.8
Offensive Ratings: Indiana 112.3, Orlando 94.2

The Pacers evened their series against the underdog Magic, but Monday's win wasn't without some temporary feelings of imminent peril.

Indiana came out aggressive, intent to establish David West in the paint and George Hill with dribble penetration. The Pacers built an early lead, getting points in the lane from all five members of their starting lineup. Indiana was in attack mode and looking all the better it, building an 11-point lead at one point. Indiana got 16 of its 24 first-quarter points in the paint and shot 55 percent from the floor. The Pacers finished the quarter poorly, however, taking a couple of long jumpers and missing, while Ryan Anderson hit a three off of a nice kick-out from J.J. Redick, then got two free throws on a third-chance opportunity. Redick closed the quarter with a layup, and the Indiana lead was just three.

Orlando kept up the momentum in the second quarter, with Glen Davis coming to life. Davis scored 10 points in the period by going aggressively at Roy Hibbert. Davis scored twice at the rim, earned three trips to the foul line and also hit a jumper. Leandro Barbosa came off the bench to give the Pacers a spark, but Orlando built a five-point lead and ultimately led by two at the break despite hitting just 32 percent from the floor. Orlando grabbed 12 of 28 offensive rebound chances -- six by Davis -- and put up a whopping 22 second-chance points in the half.

Davis came out in the second half and immediately hit a foul-line jumper and it looked like the Pacers might be in for more of the same. But Indiana turned things around big time, and in a hurry. West and Roy Hibbert went to work on the block. Hill and Paul George started penetrating the lane. Danny Granger kept firing away from the perimeter, but he eventually hit one to tie the game. A couple of minutes later, Anderson hit a three to pull the Magic within one, but Indiana went on a 14-point run that essentially decided the game.

Tyler Hansbrough checked in for Hibbert with 5:44 to go in the third quarter, and from that point the Pacers outscored Orlando 15-2 to finish the period. Right after Hansbrough checked in, Indiana reeled off seven unanswered points in less than a minute. Granger converted a runner and was fouled. West got a free throw off a putback attempt, missed a charity shot, but Granger grabbed the board and dribbled it out to reset the offense. After a couple of passes against a slowly-rotating Magic defense, George swung it to Hill for an elbow three to put Indiana up nine.

At that point, Leandro Barbosa came on for George and that lineup, with West at center and Hill sharing ballhandling duties with Barbosa, finished the quarter strong. The Pacers led by 15 at the end of the quarter. After getting handled on the boards in the first half, Indiana hammered Orlando by grabbing 16 of the 20 third-quarter rebound opportunities, and outscored the Magic 13-2 in second-chance points. It was a gang-rebound effort, too, with five players grabbing two or more boards.

Indiana continued its balanced approach in a dead-even fourth quarter and eased in with the win. The Pacers got 10 points in the paint in the quarter -- eight at the rim -- which offset a poor shooting period in which they went 0-6. Hill and Barbosa played the majority of the minutes in the backcourt in a small lineup with West at five, Granger at four and George at three. That lineup didn't work too well on the defensive end. In fact, the starting has outscored Orlando by 17 points over the two games as a unit, so Vogel probably doesn't need to get too fancy with his groupings.

Still, there's no denying that the move to slide West over the five in the third quarter helped wear down the gimpy-ankled Davis and sparked Indiana's run. And the Hill-Barbosa backcourt has been was effective at pushing the ball into early offense in a game that was otherwise played at a snail's pace. They were both effective at probing he defense off the dribble and creating life in what had become an increasingly stagnant Indiana attack. The ability to get into the paint may well have contributed to Indiana's second-half resurgence on the offensive glass. I wrote after the first game that Vogel needed to pick a point guard; he's clearly case his vote for Hill over Darren Collison, who played just 12 minutes.

Stan Van Gundy has to be searching for answers right now. As well as Davis played superficially -- he had 18 points and 10 boards, but took 16 shots -- the Magic were outscored by 30 points with him in the game on Monday. The Magic allowed 50 points in the paint and after all those first-half second-chance points, they had just two after halftime. Orlando allowed 1.1 points per possession in a game that the Pacers hit just 2 of 20 from beyond the arc.

The lesson here is that size matters and, right now, the Magic just don't have it.

(Note: Data from MySynergySports.com and NBA.com/Stats were used in this piece.)

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