The Indiana Pacers led most of the night but could never grab control of the game, letting the Orlando Magic hang around, push the game into overtime and then escape town with a 100-98 win.
This doesn't hurt as bad as the Philly loss, but it's in the neighborhood. Once again, the little things throughout the game caught up with the Pacers in the end.
The Magic were struggling most of the night. Rashard Lewis was saddled with foul trouble in the second half. Hedo Turkoglu was defended real well, and became a non-factor shooting the ball. But whenever it appeared the Pacers could take control of the game and push the lead to double-digits, a bad shot or turnover would emerge, the Magic would capitalize at the other end and then there they were, right in the rear view mirror.
Down the stretch, the Magic had the shooters to step up and make the plays that needed to be made. Jameer Nelson scored nine back-breaking points in the final five minutes for Orlando. Then in OT, Rashard Lewis made up for lost time on the bench by scoring the final seven points for the winners.
The Pacers stretch performance was just the opposite. You only have to look at the 14 fourth-quarter points to realize where the game was lost. Yes, there were some missed open looks. One of those nights, for sure. Plus, Dwight Howard wasn't allowing any easy bucket around the rim so his presence changed everything in the paint. Howard really carried the Magic throughout the game until his shooters came to life late.
BUT, when the game stops going your way the team can't just stop doing what was working. The ball movement and player movement that produced 34 first quarter points for the Pacers was bound up in a stagnant effort at the offensive end in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Marquis Daniels had a great game with 25 points on 19 shots and did a good job getting to the hoop throughout the game. But down the stretch in OT, he was forced into shooting bad shots. Not completely his fault, thought. The spacing was bad, no one was moving and someone had to get a shot up. Quisy was able to free himself to get off the shots, but they weren't good shots for the situation.
Then there were the two plays at the end of regulation and OT. First, with the score tied in the final 6.2 seconds of regulation, T.J. Ford and Rasho played a two-man game that caught Dwight Howard off-balance for a second. But as Rasho tried to swoop in a game-winning runner, Howard recovered to block the shot.
At the end of OT, the Pacers had the ball out on the right side with 9.9 seconds left. Same play as regulation but with a little more time. This time, T.J Ford ends up with a 16-foot jumper over an outstretched Dwight Howard. Clank. Game.
Quick question in hindsight: Where was Danny Granger?
On the first play, there wasn't as much time and Danny raced to the glass waiting for a tip opportunity that Howard swatted away. For the OT play, Danny was out on the arc covered up by Rashard Lewis.
After the game Jim O'Brien labeled Ford's last shot a good look, an unchallenged short jump shot. Sorry, but I disagree and I'm sure JOB will too when he reviews the tape.
Dwight Howard jumped out at T.J. so I'd say the shot was at least challenged, if not completely altered. T.J. had to shoot the ball, since there was no other option. Every other player was covered up. Sill, a high arcing shot over Howard's extended arms is not what I consider a good look with the game on the line.
Granger struggled to find his offensive rhythm all night, but after making a three early in overtime he didn't get another shot. Why not run a play for Danny in the late game situation? If the jumper isn't open, he can try to drive and draw a foul or at least some other defenders to open up a teammate for a good look.
Hindsight, I know. But the little things mounted against the Pacers tonight. Compared to the Magic, you could really tell the Pacers are a team still trying to figure out how to come together and win games. The Magic have a veteran team that has played together for a couple of years now. The Pacers don't have the same level of trust when the going gets tough to know exactly what to do and who to go through to win. They may have a better idea after tonight.
Unfortunately, this was one tough lesson to learn.