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Pacers lineup issues exposed from the tip by Magic
The Pacers couldn't solve the Magic's length as things turned ugly early.
Myles Turner and Goga Bitadze reunited for the opening tip at the Fieldhouse on Sunday. The Magic won the tip and things continued to go sideways for the Pacers as the Magic dominated, leading by as much as 40 points in the third quarter, en route to a 128-116 win.
The Magic were up 11-0 before the Pacers finally scored over three minutes into the game. But it seemed like the Pacers were down 30-plus points most of the game until the Pacers proved to have a far better third unit in the fourth quarter to make the final score appear respectable.
There are plenty of lazy narratives to explain the results. Yes, the Pacers had four full days off. Since they didn’t play well, they weren’t well rested and prepared, but instead rusty and out of game rhythm, exhaling after a big win over Philly on Tuesday.
Mmhmm. Never mind they lost the prior game to the Sixers.
Or maybe it was all of the national media attention they received after beating the Sixers. Enjoying the shine too much. Although, in reality all of that notoriety was more focused on Tyrese Haliburton.
Sorry, but this team under Rick Carlisle is not going to get to full of themselves before they actually acomplish anything.
Nope, the problem against the Magic was pretty simple and apparent very early.
After the Magic scored their first two points, Benn Mathurin quickly inbounded the ball to Bruce Brown who was running up the right sideline. Myles Turner was open, running straight to the rim, setting up for a classic Pacers response off a make to score within a couple of seconds.
But when Brown threw the pass ahead to Turner, the 7-foot wingspan of Franz Wagner appeared on the run, to deflect the pass to Paolo Banchero and send the Magic back on the attack.
The Pacers were simply not big enough to handle the length and athleticism the Magic threw at them with their league-leading defense. That size difference showed up at both ends. Franz and Mo Wagner, Banchero, Goga and Anthony Black are all active and all long.
While the Pacers are active, they are comparably small across the board generally using BBrown and Mathurin, then Andrew Nembhard, Buddy Hield and Aaron Nesmith playing small ball in reserve. Nembhard was not available, but TJ McConnell and Ben Sheppard didn’t add much length if any to the party (although seeing Sheppard play was nice).
The Magic had 10 steals and 10 blocks, flashing their defensive bona fides constantly while building a big lead. But it was at the offensive end where the Pacers felt the size difference. If Banchero wasn’t such an agreeable fellow, it seemed like he could’ve scored 40 instead of the routine 24 points he posted. The 6’10 forward was left far too often with Brown or Mathurin trying to defend. Even Aaron Nesmith was unable to alter Banchero’s will with the ball. Try as they might, while doing an admirable job staying in front, it was often just an exercise in bully ball.
It was not unlike the drubbing the Pacers took at the hands of the Celtics with their dynamic length. When these matchups are so lopsided, thanks to the Pacers infamous imbalanced roster, the Pacers either have to be on fire offensively or they need to start trying something different defensively. Even if they have to pack a zone once in awhile to shake up the big runs and physical abuse in the paint.
The Magic scored 48 points in the pain in the first half. Needless to say, that would be a positive stat for a game, let alone a half. Without the energy or shooting accuracy to combat the Magic, the loss was never in doubt.
The Pacers earned a sellout on Sunday night with their overall strong play of late. A random November sellout on an NFL Sunday (Colts bye didn’t hurt, still) with the Magic in town? Yes, the Pacers earned that with all of the attention they have generated so far this season. Unfortunately, they threw up a clunker and big chunks of that sellout were gone early in the second half.
Those fans that did stay until the end brought plenty of energy and noise as the Pacers third unit outplayed the Magic to cut the huge deficit to 12. Rookies Sheppard and Jarace Walker were particularly active defensively, creating some excitement when they extended the pressure and created some momentary chaos. Jordan Nwora finished with 19 points, cashing in several of those stops to keep any flickering hope of a miracle comeback alive.
The Pacers have to dump this memory and move on with an off day on Monday before visiting Atlanta with a chance to lock up their Group by beating the Hawks in the In-Season Tournament. The Pacers then return to the Fieldhouse to play the Raptors on Wednesday, yet another team with dynamic length in the lineup.
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