Despite holding the league's best home record hosting the NBA's worst road team, the Indiana Pacers found themselves up just 60-58 five minutes into the third quarter against the Orlando Magic. The Pacers stumbled into a third quarter lull after steadily working their way to a 57-41 advantage with 2:56 left in the second quarter, a David West field goal the only in nine minute stretch where Indiana shot 1-16 from the field.
Orlando outscored Indiana 17-3 in that stretch to trim the lead to two as Indiana's offense stagnated, becoming a series of long jumpers, including eight missed three pointers. The Magic had found an extra step in their play, turning the game in their favor before a Lance Stephenson and-one helped ignite the Pacers into a quick 6-0 run, allowing just five points in the final 7:01 of the quarter. After Glen Davis hit a jumper to snap Indiana's run, Orlando couldn't find a field goal for over 10 minutes. Indiana spent that time wisely, running off an 18-1 run to push the lead to 22.
As the final buzzer sounded, the Pacers had allowed just 29 second half points from the Magic, this after Orlando used 28 second quarter points to score 50 at the break, all while shooting 50% and being led by Arron Afflalo, who had 18 first half points. Afflalo was held to just two points in the second half on 1-7 shooting, the Magic's shooting percentage dropping below 40%.
Indiana entered tonight's game against Orlando having allowed 105.6 points per game in their recent 3-3 stretch, and they offered very little in the way of resistance against the Magic, especially late in the second quarter, when Orlando scored seven of their 28 points to cut Indiana's 16 point lead to nine at the break. But even as Indiana's offense struggled into the third quarter, they slowly started to establish their defensive identity en route to 13 third quarter points allowed as the Pacers won the ugly third quarter 16-13.
The Pacers saw a balanced attack throughout the night with Danny Granger winding up as the team's leading scorer with a season high 16 points. Granger struggled shooting early, but finished 5-9 from the floor, including a trio of three pointers. It would be hard to believe the Pacers weren't playing tonight's game without one eye on tomorrow night's contest in Atlanta, and the bench played with the purpose of helping out the starters, scoring 49 of Indiana's 98 points.
Before getting too excited about the bench's play, it's important to remember that even last year's bench was capable of huge scoring bursts against the teams sitting at the bottom of the league's standings, but it was a kind of key night for the bench to break out of their own funk to allow the starters a little extra rest with tomorrow night's game in Atlanta trying not to be a schedule loss for Indiana. C.J. Watson had a solid 5-10 shooting night with 12 points and Luis Scola came up with 10 points of his own despite shooting just 4-13 from the floor.
Ian Mahinmi had a solid game, scoring seven points with five rebounds (three offensive) before he left the game with a sore right shoulder. The lopsided nature of the game at his exit didn't make his return necessary, but it will be worth keeping an eye on his shoulder for tomorrow night's game. As well, David West went down halfway through the third quarter holding his ankle. While he would return, he didn't log any fourth quarter minutes. He had eight points and seven rebounds.
Paul George joined Stephenson as the only two starters in double figures. George scored a quiet 15, including a pair of three pointers. Stephenson also had 15 as the only starter to play over 27 minutes, helping ignite the second half offense, coming away with a 15 & 12 rebound double double. Roy Hibbert had one of his better rebounding games recently, grabbing eight and scoring nine.
The Pacers wrap up their three game home stand with a 2-1 record, extending their home record to 23-2. None of that will matter when Indiana takes the court tomorrow night against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena, where Indiana has lost 12 straight regular season games and are just 1-14 in that stretch. Eleven of those 14 losses have come in double figure fashion, including Indiana's 97-87 loss to the Hawks on January 8th.
Tomorrow night's game will be a big test for the Pacers to not only get a win in Atlanta, but to try and avoid the second night of a back-to-back woes, where the Pacers sit at 6-6 on the season. Indiana has lost three of their last four back-to-backs, sitting at just 3-6 on the season when playing those games on the road.