The Pacers were left shaking their heads realizing they posted arguably the most painful loss of the season by failing to close out the Magic early like a killer team with championship aspirations should.
Plenty of opponents have been unable to endure the heat the Pacers put on in the third quarter before simply fading away, so it is easy to see how the Pacers figured the Magic would pack it in when they expanded the lead to 17 points in the third quarter. All credit to Orlando for staying the course and finding a way to battle back for the win.
As for the Pacers, they had chances to expand that lead even further in the third quarter but instead strayed out of their lane. The play that stands out for me happened midway through the third quarter with the Pacers up double digits. Lance Stephenson grabbed a rebound and galloped up court, eventually firing a long behind-the-back pass to George Hill who took the ball on the move and went to his own behind-the-back pass to David West.
Except West never touched it.
Instead Nikola Vucevic swiped the Hill pass. One of several wasted possession when things were otherwise going the Pacers' way. After the reserve unit came in and gave up the lead and then some, the Pacers were left scrambling to the finish. Somehow they found a way to earn a shot at the win in the final seconds. But that's when all of the mess and blown opportunities earlier in the game really caught up with them.
Just think of that last wild play and all of the opportunities lost in the final few seconds as the refs let everything play out. No less than six opportunities to score in the frantic finish ended with nothing, the perfect microcosm of the 48 minute loss.
First, Lance Stephenson gets destroyed by Big Baby Davis going after the loose ball with no foul call. In hindsight, obviously you want the call with a chance to go ahead at the line. At the time, though, Paul George getting the ball and going seemed better than relying on free throws.
So Paul George takes the ball up court to go for a game winner with George Hill open on the wing and C.J. Watson alone in the corner. A pass to Hill could've been returned to PG for a layup or an clean 3-ball look from Hill or a second pass to Watson for the corner three. So there's three more opportunities gone.
Finally, as PG rose to shoot through three defenders, David West is left open under the hoop. Probably too many arms and too much chaos for PG to make the pass, but that's another opportunity left on the table. As it turns out, PG ends up getting run through by Big Baby preventing his shot from even getting to the rim. No call and no chance. Scoring option six...nothing.
Hard to think that final play wasn't the basketball gods paying back a team for past sins earlier in the game.
The Pacers seemed to get a gift on Saturday when the Jazz beat the Heat, but they quickly shredded the donation from Utah and now have to get right at home against the short-handed Denver Nuggets tonight at the Fieldhouse.
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