Even ignoring that the Orlando Magic entered Bankers Life Fieldhouse at 9-3 in their last 12, playing their best basketball of the year, this was still an awful loss for the Indiana Pacers to take on. To keep them in the third spot in the East, this had to be a win, and a complete collapse in the fourth quarter ensured it wasn’t.
Similar to their loss to Orlando at the end of January, the Pacers were forced to chase a 10-0 deficit out of the gate, which in turn kept them from really building a sustainable lead over the Magic despite turning things around fairly quickly. Trailing 15-4, the Pacers responded with a 15-4 run of their own to tie things up by hitting nine of 10 from the floor.
The game was tied at the end of one and Indiana did a good job of getting into a groove in the second quarter, pushing into the lead by as many as eight in the second quarter and then breaking through into double figures early in the third 72-62. From there, the Pacers really began to struggle getting stops. They allowed Orlando to score on their next five possessions, two of those coming off of offensive rebounds.
The Magic cut the lead to four at the end of the quarter, where an after-the-buzzer putback by T.J. Leaf highlighted a rather unfortunate break for the Pacers, their second putback of the game that had come just after the buzzer. In the fourth, the Magic proceeded to do what teams have done recently: hit a lot of three pointers.
The Magic hit four threes in the first four minutes of the quarter to bring the game to within a point. They broke through on a three point play, building their lead to five points behind a massive quarter from Terrence Ross. Ross scored 18 points in the fourth, which was a perfect springboard for the Magic to take control of the game while they continued to dominate the Pacers on the offensive glass.
Orlando scored five second chance points in the fourth, all within a span of about two minutes, helping them take a seven point lead into the final 90 seconds of the game. At that point, the success of the Pacers was not rewarded, with a big block by Myles Turner failing to turn into points and a Wesley Matthews steal turning into a block at the rim for the Magic.
Those missed opportunities loomed large with under 45 seconds left, but Darren Collison cut the lead to four on a deep three and Thaddeus Young ripped the ball from Evan Fournier to get the easy layup to somehow make it two point game with 30 seconds remaining. Back down the other way, Fournier dribbled out the clock, stepped back, and sunk the dagger on the Pacers with, of all things, a three pointer.
The Pacers were outscored 34-25 in the fourth quarter, a gap they may have been able to withstand had they not surrendered the first 10 points of the game. Through the game, the Pacers were outrebounded 11-3 on the offensive glass and unlike the win against Minnesota, they weren’t able to make up for it in other areas. They split the game 16-16 in points off turnovers and were outscored 17-11 in fast break points, costly numbers for a team that relies heavily on both for success.
Bojan Bogdanovic led the way with 25 points, joined in the 20-point club by Collison with 23 points and 10 assists. There was a lot of good things from guys offensively tonight, including a 13-point night from Young. Unfortunately, the struggles defensively became evident in the second half when Nikola Vucevic and Ross exploded offensively.
After doing a really good job limiting Vucevic in the first half, Turner found things a little tougher to handle in the second half while offering little on the offensive end after a big first quarter. Turner finished with 10 points, six rebounds, and four blocks, but helped to surrender 27 to Vucevic.
Indiana’s second unit didn’t provide much in the way of a counter in scoring. Cory Joseph played well, scoring 14 points on 6-9 shooting, but the rest of the bench had just 15 combined points, including three points from Tyreke Evans and a goose egg for Leaf after his career best. Both Doug McDermott and Kyle O’Quinn had six on 3-4 shooting, but played just 30 minutes between the two of them.
This Pacers team has shown a lot of resiliency all season, but a costly 1-3 record in their last four games, all against under .500 opponents, is putting them in a precarious position with their gauntlet stretch coming next week. A home game against the surging Chicago Bulls on Tuesday won’t be easy enough, but then comes 15 of 16 against playoff teams in a stretch that looked make-or-break for the third seed, but instead may just be them trying to hold onto home court as they drop to fourth pending the outcome of Philadelphia’s game tonight.