Sometimes you live by the three, sometimes you die by the three. Tonight, the Indiana Pacers' got killed by the three. Indiana opened up a cozy seven-point lead early, but the Orlando Magic turned the game around in a hurry, leading after one, extending their lead to 16 at the half, and shooting their way into the victory on 12-21 shooting from three point range.
The Pacers didn't play one of their worst games, but struggled keeping it manageable when they couldn't chase the Magic off the three point arc. In yesterday's excellent piece on the Pacers on Grantland.com, one of the biggest strengths for the Pacers was their defense against the three, particularly, their defense against corner three pointers. By the half, the Pacers had allowed 3-4 shooting from the corner, the total climbing to 5-6 by the end of the game.
There were just a lot of things going against Indiana's favor in how the Magic attacked the Pacers, but Indiana's poor shooting from range didn't help the matter much. The Magic made 10 more three pointers, an astronomical number when both team shot in the same range. The Pacers were killed in points off turnovers, allowing 23 to the Magic on 15 turnovers. Add in Indiana's respectable shooting from the free throw line, but make a quick note that they were unable to get there consistently, and the numbers keep mounting against the Pacers that resulted in a loss they were just bowled over in.
Paul George amounted for over half of the Pacers free throw attempts, getting to the line seven times as he scored a game high 20 to go with another 10 rebounds. Six Pacers actually reached double figures, two get gold stars for participation, but it seemed it didn't even matter tonight. Eleven of the Pacers' 15 turnovers came from the starters, so it's not fair to give them an entire pass compared to the bench which played terribly for 43 minutes.
Tyler Hansbrough and Gerald Green finished the game with 10 apiece, but Green had just four through the first three and a half quarters, amounting for all of Indiana's bench production to that point. Ian Mahinmi, D.J. Augustin, and Orlando Johnson blanked on the scoreboard, with the latter two missing all seven of their shots and Mahinmi turning it over three times.
David West and George Hill had a pair of respectable efforts, scoring 14 & 15 apiece, but their contributions were definitely minimized when the Pacers were trading baskets throughout the second half. Roy Hibbert had a solid first half, but had his contributions limited in the second half with foul trouble, finishing with 11 points on 5-7 shooting. Lance Stephenson had six points and three assists, but did not look sharp in his play tonight.
Excuses can be drawn about the Pacers being on their fourth game in five nights, but the bottom line is that one of Indiana's key strengths defensively fell completely flat for them. Indiana have defended the three tremendously this season, but had no answer for what Orlando was throwing at the rim all night. It's a frustrating loss to take on when the Pacers stare at five straight games against Western Conference playoff (caliber) teams, four of those on the road, but what can you do?
The Pacers have done a solid job responding to losses, having not lost two consecutive since December 9th, and will need to bring their top tier defensive effort against James Harden and the Houston Rockets on Friday to keep from heading on the road with a pair of consecutive L's.