Posted May 1 2012 1:09AM
INDIANAPOLIS -- Welcome to the No Superstar Series, where instead of seeing someone take control of a game, you're more likely to witness both teams losing control of a game.
There's no Kobe, no KD, no Big Three, not even a Big One, just two teams running the floor for 48 minutes hoping the other makes a mistake, of which there's been plenty so far. Darn you Dwight Howard and your bad back.
When Howard underwent surgery and effectively canceled his appearance for the Magic, this first-round series lost the only name in bold print. As if to twist the knife, Howard isn't expected at Games 3 and 4 in street clothes in Orlando, his back unable to make the trip safely from L.A., where he had the operation. But really, based on the first two games, what's there to see, anyway?
The best player in the series so far is Big Baby Davis, built like a Cheerio, a backup center and a plodder who couldn't play above the rim if he wanted.
"He's playing very, very hard," said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, "but when you go 5-for-16 from the field, I don't think he played very well."
Well. OK, then. We stand corrected. Nobody is really playing well, at least not exceptionally.
Davis bragged about being "a boulder," which only roll downhill, which is where this series is going.
Neither team can shoot straight, or entertain, or come up with a highlight more compelling than Chris Duhon's traveling dance, which became a YouTube rage after Game 1. The Magic stunned the Pacers in that opener mainly because Indiana blew two open looks and a pair of free throws in the final minute. A fluke win for Orlando, a choke for Indiana, basically. And the Pacers evened the series Monday when the Magic emerged from the halftime locker room in a trance and slogged through a lopsided third quarter that saw them outscored 30-13.
This is a series that desperately could use the brilliance of a major star but instead is looking like a straight-to-video production. Is there anyone capable of dropping 40 points, or throwing down a triple-double or carrying his team? Not really, just a collection of fair to very good players who are playing a notch below even those standards at the moement.
• The Magic shot below 40 percent ... and won Game 1 with a blistering 17-point fourth quarter.
• The Pacers surrendered a dozen offensive rebounds to Orlando by halftime of Game 2, with Davis doing more work than the entire Indiana team.
• Jason Richardson, who sank the go-ahead bucket in Game 1, matched that in Game 2. No, we don't mean he hit another go-ahead hoop. He scored only one hoop the entire game.
• Roy Hibbert, who has the footwork of a drunk at 3 a.m., managed four points in Game 2 against a player six inches shorter.
• Danny Granger, the closest thing to a true star, has required 41 shots to get 35 points. Did he waste all of his best years on crummy Indiana teams?
So that's the series so far. Lots of poor shooting, some mental lapses, turnovers in bunches and a glaring lack of splendid play. A series that begs for a superstar will get people begging for it to be over, if this keeps up.
Is there hope? Maybe. David West vows it will be a different Pacers team from here, a team that more reflects the success Indiana had during the regular season.
"Our intent is to come out and push the tempo," West said. "We've got guys who can get out on the wing. We can't be too robotic."
The Pacers are a lot like the Bulls, minus Derrick Rose. They do things collectively: crash the boards, share the ball and defend. Four years ago Granger would be dumping 30 on the Magic but the scoring is more evenly spread now that the talent has increased, with West often taking over in big moments.
They're a team from a small market that reflects the state it represents: no frills, just hard work. Problem is, when that dynamic doesn't work, the Pacers are vulnerable and ... well, not terribly exciting to watch.
As for the Magic, you must admire their effort under Van Gundy, who's showing his worth as a coach. But you know how this will probably end. Most likely, they're a superstar short of going deep in the playoffs, or even this series unless the Pacers help make it possible.
"We need to come out with a greater will than the other team" in order to win, according to Ryan Anderson.
Or else, they need Howard, and that's not happening.
And so the series will continue Wednesday in Orlando, which coincidently was the site of this year's All-Star Game. All the glitz and glamour have long left the building, leaving it to the Magic and Pacers to slog it out. Neither team will quicken anyone's pulse, but if this persists, can someone please rise up and quicken this series?
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