Denton: Much is Different From Last Year's Playoff Series


By John Denton
January 16, 2013

ORLANDO – When the Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers last met in the Amway Center for a meaningful game, it was last May and the two teams engaged in first-round playoff series that produced an epic Game 4.

The Magic mostly want to remember how they rallied from a 19-point deficit, forced overtime with a clutch 3-pointer by J.J. Redick over Paul George and pushed the heavily favored Pacers to the brink in the extra period. Ultimately, Indiana prevailed 101-99 in overtime after a controversial foul call on Orlando’s Jameer Nelson put George Hill on the free throw line for the winning points. And two days later, Indiana clinched it 4-1 in a series that was closer than the final margin might have indicated.

Much has changed since then what with the Magic hiring GM Rob Hennigan and head coach Jacque Vaughn and massively restructuring their team following the trading of Dwight Howard. But one Magic holdover from that series, Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, remembers that playoff series because of what it did for his career and his place in Orlando.

Davis averaged 19 points and 9.2 rebounds in that series, and poured in 24 points in that Game 4 against the Pacers in Orlando. He and Redick carried the Magic throughout that fourth quarter, running pick-and-roll plays repeatedly to perfection.

The Magic’s game against Indiana tonight sparked memories of that playoff series for Davis, who could very well return to the starting lineup for Orlando (13-24) after playing well in his return from a shoulder sprain on Monday in Washington.

``That (playoff series) just set the tone for myself and let me know that I am a player in this league,’’ Davis said. ``I can most definitely play at a high level and help a team. Here I am now. Because of the way I played, it gave Rob (Hennigan) and the management here more options. I’m just glad they gave me the opportunity to step into a different role.’’

The Magic moved a step closer to finally being whole when they welcomed reserve point guard E’Twaun Moore and Davis back to the rotation. Orlando is still missing veteran forward Al Harrington (knee surgery) and Gustavo Ayon (leg swelling) and has yet to have its full roster for any game this season. But the returns of Davis and Moore gives the Magic more ammunition to take on a Pacers team (24-15) that many picked to win the Central Division this season.

``They both made it (through Monday’s game and Tuesday’s day off) pretty well. Me talking to them, they said they felt good,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said of Davis and Moore. ``So that was a good positive sign.’’

Vaughn said there are a host of factors that he considers when pondering whether or not to move Davis back into the starting lineup. Rookie Andrew Nicholson has started of late at power forward, but has struggled defensively against bigger and stronger players.

``Rhythm of the team, roles of the team and how healthy is everyone else,’’ Vaughn said. ``It’s just still about the totality, what’s for the betterment of the team and what lineup is best. It’s all team-oriented.’’

Davis was impressive on Monday despite missing the previous three-plus weeks with a left shoulder that he badly sprained on Dec. 19. Davis made six of eight shots, scored 13 points and withstood a couple of hard hits. Davis said he’s eager to play more than the 17 minutes he played on Monday, but he knows the goal is long-term health so that the Magic can work toward possibly making the playoffs for a seventh straight season, something that would extend a streak that is the longest in the Eastern Conference.

``After last game I was feeling like I could play more. But I understand what the coach was trying to do,’’ Davis said. ``You have to know what we’re playing for. With us being healthy and on the same page, we are a playoff team. We’re just trying to make sure we get everybody healthy so that we can make a run.’’

As for last spring’s playoff series against the Pacers, Davis remembers the battles that he had with Indiana’s Roy Hibbert. While the 7-foot-2 center dominated play at times with his shot-blocking skills, Davis proved to be an inspiration for the Magic for the grit that he showed inside. He said he can’t wait to do battle with power forward David West and Hibbert again tonight.

``(I remember) just playing extremely hard and Roy Hibbert blocking my shot every time I felt like I was going up. But I just kept going and I told him that I was going to keep coming,’’ Davis said with a laugh. ``But he didn’t block all of them. It will be a little bit different this year.’’

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