The Pacers trailed most of the second half, but despite struggles on the offensive end, remained alive in the final seconds. Indiana fell behind by as many as eight, but found themselves back just two as the Pacers set to inbound the ball. Dwight Howard was the only offensive output for the Magic in the fourth quarter, scoring all 14 points as the Magic clung to a slim 85-83 lead with just under a minute to go. Roy Hibbert, who saddled himself with foul trouble, reentered the game, looking to spark the stagnant Indiana offense, who just looked to draw the game even again with a chance to win.
Howard had blocked shots by T.J. Ford and Danny Granger on the previous two possessions to help keep Indiana at bay, but after much of the second half offense relied on one-on-one matchups instead of ball movement, the team found themselves looking to move the ball. Hibbert received the pass inside and with no real look, knocked it out to James Posey. Posey had forced his way to the line and tied the game up at 83 just 90 seconds earlier. The team was only 5-26 on three pointers when Posey pulled up his shot. The entire Fieldhouse held their breath Posey's shot found the bottom of the net.
After fighting and clawing and keeping the Magic within striking distance, the Pacers had finally taken the lead with just 45 seconds to go. Unfortunately, Posey's heroics would go without reward as Jameer Nelson tossed up a floater that snagged Ford on the foul. His three point play would put the Magic back up for good, and the Pacers would drop a tense one in heartbreaking fashion. All the work they'd done, in forcing the ball through HIbbert early and often in the first half, preventing turnovers, and controlling the rebounding that gave them the halftime lead, it would be the little things that kept them from taking home the win.
Rashard Lewis pushed the Magic into the lead with a hat trick of three pointers in the third quarter, and Hibbert picked up some ill advised fouls, sending him to the bench, which allowed Jeff Foster to step in and have a vintage Foster night. There were plenty of second half issues: stagnant offense, turnovers, poor shooting, but none worse than the team's free throw shooting effort. A lot was left on the table tonight, and the Pacers paid the ultimate price for doing so, a tough loss in a winnable game.
After the jump, more on the Pacers and Magic:
- Roy Hibbert was the man of the house in the first half. The big fella made it a lifelong aspiration to outshine Dwight Howard in every facet. As the teams went into the locker room, the Pacers up three, Hibbert had 17 points and 6 rebounds on 8-14 shooting. Howard? Only 6 points and 2 boards. Unfortunately, coming out of the half, Hibbert was quickly stricken with bad fouls that glued him to the bench for much of the second half. Dwight came out ahead in this battle, finishing with 25 and 12 as Hibbert managed 19 and 10.
- T.J. Ford's play down the stretch can be described only as devil-may-care. At times, it benefited Indiana, at times, it absolutely broke them. Ford was the catalyst for some big plays down the stretch, but his lack of decision making certianly didn't make it easy, as he worked inside quickly to find himself without an outlet, or failed to recognize his surrounding when taking a shot. Darren Collison missed his third straight game tonight, giving Ford the lead, but his positives and negatives did a tremendous job drowning each other out tonight.
- The Magic made it an effort to take away Danny Granger and they did just that. Granger finished with 13 points, only four in the second half, on a tough 5-18 shooting. It didn't help that Mike Dunleavy struggled as well, giving the Pacers fewer options when they needed a big second half push.
- Brandon Rush provided a push for the blue and gold, however, finishing with 14 points on 6-11 shooting, remaining active and doing well on the defensive end.
Free throw shooting was a giant concern tonight. The Pacers finished 11-19 from the charity stripe, missing shot after shot. The team actually pulled up their average by making their final five of the night. Not exactly a shining example from one of the league’s surest free throw teams.
Jeff Foster finished with 4 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks, and somewhere around 35 hustle plays, as Jeff really filled in admirably in Roy’s bench time. Foster looked like the Foster of old, played like the Foster of old, and commanded the floor like the Foster of old. His value is a huge asset should he be healthy and able to play.
The Pacers were able to stay in the game thanks in part to their defensive efforts and some timely cold stretches by Orlando. The Pacers limited second chance opportunities and put themselves in position to force the Magic to miss. Defense kept the Pacers alive in this one, just long enough for Posey to almost hero the team to a win.
Tonight’s loss was tough to take. The Pacers simply beat themselves and weren’t able to capitalize on the mistakes Orlando made or execute to the level it takes to win. Things only get harder as the Pacers will have to rebound against the Miami Heat in Miami. Dwyane Wade is a little banged up, and the team doesn’t look like a formidable force at times, but it doesn’t mean they’re not capable of blowing the Pacers out of the water if Indiana doesn’t show up.