About halfway through the second quarter, George Hill went to the free throw line, finishing a three point play that would put the Pacers in control 44-29. The lead was built due to superb bench play (sic) and great energy that forced Orlando in double digit turnovers. Even though it was a sluggish start for the blue and gold's starters, some digging did in fact prove the Indiana bench played exceptionally well, and built a 15-point lead that was all but going to put the Magic to rest early.
But as the starters returned, so did the Magic. The team's decision to double down on Dwight Howard, leaving Orlando's shooters wide open proved to be a bad one, one that probably should've been at the top of the Pacers' list heading into the game given what Orlando did to Indiana last time the two teams met. Nevertheless, struggling offense returned for a spell, as too did hot Orlando shooting, and the Magic rode a 22-4 run to not only erase the deficit, but head into the locker room up three.
However, as has been the case in nearly every game this season, Frank Vogel's Magical Halftime Elixir proved to be a potent one, as the Pacers stormed out of the locker room on a commanding 15-3 run that would put the Pacers back in front. The run was fueled by Danny Granger, who despite a strong first quarter was blanked in the second, as well as David West, who came into the second half just 1-6 from the field. Indiana continued to build upon their lead, and Paul George drilled a pair of back-to-back three pointers to put the lead back to fifteen.
Fifteen ended up being the wall for Indiana as J.J. Reddick led the way on an 8-2 run to cut the game back to single digits, creating something of a déjà vu experience as the Magic seemed to slowly climb back into the game. But a Darren Collison floater that bounced out was rebounded by Tyler Hansbrough, who needed a couple of shots to get a buzzer beating layup to go in, one that was aided by an and one basket, put Indiana back up 12.
Granger and West continued to lay the foundation for success on the offensive end, keeping the Magic at bay before pushing over the 15-point barrier as a struggling Roy Hibbert put the game over 20 for good, giving Indiana their 13th win of the season, their 8th on the road, and keeping them perfect in responding to losses on the season. The big difference in tonight's second half? Defensive assignments were much better. But it would be a lie to say it was all Indiana's defense, as Orlando's three point shooters came back down a fair rate themselves.
In the end, keeping Orlando off of the three point line proved to be a successful formula as Dwight Howard and his 4-15 free throw shooting night was unable to carry the load for Orlando, who lost the second half 58-34 for their third loss in a row and fourth in five.
After the jump, more on the Indiana Road Warrior Redemption Tour:
- Danny Granger had a fantastic game, and that stemmed from good shots and good releases. While Hedo Turkoglu had a pair of threes, Granger kept him under wraps for all night, holding him to just seven points. On his end of the floor, Danny had a game high 24, and was doing so with some smooth baskets. Some late misses take away from his overall stats, but it was a tremendous showing from #33 tonight.
- David West also played big in the second half, stepping up from a pretty poor first half to finish strong with 16 and 7. The big second half was done in one of those "this is why we got West" senses, and while thorn-in-the-side Ryan Anderson got a few big threes, West certainly helped in limiting his impact. His front court partner Tyler Hansbrough showed signs of breaking out of his slump on a 3-6 shooting night, including the big three point play to shut the Magic momentum down.
- Elsewhere in the front court, Roy Hibbert not only struggled with foul trouble throughout the night, but struggled with playing basketball as well. Hopefully not a trend as Hibbert had another below standard game, but the big fella just couldn't find his groove as hits shots looked bad and didn't come close to going in. Some bright spots in the second half were hindered by the big fella's inability to stay on the floor. Lou Amundson broke out of his big shooting slump with a monstrous season high of 8 points on, get this, 4-4 shooting. Louuuuuu hasn't been much more than a shoulder shrug this season, but get him in the right place offensively (dunking, basically) and he can look closer to Jeff Foster than Solomon Jones.
- The story of the game was the superb bench play to bail out a lethargic first half from the starters and it was George Hill, in full on eff you mode, leading the way for the second unit with 16 points, 6 boards, and 4 assists with a pair of triples. The Magic were simply unable to keep Hill contained, and he was the reason the Pacers were able to capitalize on all of Orlando's turnovers to build the first half lead they would eventually relinquish instead of spending the second half digging out of that hole.
- As has been mentioned on and off throughout the season, the Pacers not only have played 13 road games vs. 6 home games on the season, but are 8-5 on the road (where they had just 9 wins in 2009-10 and 13 wins last season). The wins they've accumulated have been impressive to say the least. The Pacers have been able to snap losing streaks at Toronto (5), Boston (7), Golden State (4), Chicago (9), and now Orlando (6). And while they snapped their losing streak in Los Angeles against the Lakers last season, it's still no slouch they were able to grab another victory at Staples against the Lakers who were 9-1 to that point at home.
Indiana avoids falling into a back-to-back hole yet again, staying one of three remaining teams (with Chicago and Philadelphia) to not take on two straight losses on the season. In this difficult five game stretch where they played against five playoff teams, four of those on the road, the Pacers come out a better than expected 3-2. The key now as they will host the New Jersey Nets, who before getting destroyed by Toronto at home tonight were showing signs of life, is finding consistency. In the past four games, there has been a lot of up and down play.
The Pacers need to avoid falling on a downward trend as they get one of their rare home games against an opponent they should be able to take care of as long as they don't get swept up in one-on-one play or caught in bad shots resulting in another sub 40% night.