Denton's Dish: Magic at Pacers Game 5 (5/8/12)



By John Denton
May 8, 2012


INDIANAPOLIS – Refusing to be ushered out of the playoffs without a fight, the Orlando Magic battled Tuesday night just as they have for weeks to stay competitive after superstar center Dwight Howard went down with a back injury.

The Magic finally bettered Indiana in a third quarter and remarkably had a two-point lead with 11 minutes to play. But the bigger, deeper Pacers kept on coming and not even a do-everything effort from point guard Jameer Nelson could keep the undermanned Magic alive in this first-round playoff series.

Indiana unleashed runs of 16-7 and 9-2 in the final 11 minutes and this time there would be no furious Magic comeback as the Pacers defeated Orlando 105-87 and won the series, 4-1.

``At that point in the game,’’ Nelson said, ``you just can’t run out of gas. You just have to play through whatever is going on. We tried and played our hardest.’’

Nelson, the Magic’s captain and longest tenured player, had 27 points, including 15 in a dazzling third quarter when the Magic seemed to take control of the game and threaten the possibility of sending the series back to Orlando. But as the Magic tried resting Nelson for the stretch run, Indiana scored seven straight points to re-take the lead, a lead they wouldn’t lose the rest of the way.

The sixth-seeded Magic won the first game in the series by scoring the final 11 points of the night, but never won again. The crushing blow was Saturday’s 101-99 overtime loss that left the Magic in a 3-1 hole that was just too deep to dig out of. There was a glimmer of hope on Tuesday as the Magic surged ahead in the fourth quarter, but in the end Indiana’s deeper and bigger lineup overwhelmed the Magic.

``It’s tough right now because at the end of the day we just didn’t close out games the way we needed to,’’ said Magic forward Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, who had 15 points and eight rebounds. ``What we learned is that we can almost win games (against the Pacers). Almost win – that hurts.’’

So ends a season in which the Magic had one of the NBA’s five-best records for much of the year before Howard, their franchise center, went down with a back injury. Howard had season-ending back surgery almost three weeks ago, causing him to miss more games this season than he had in the first seven years of his NBA career.

Still, the Magic were in the playoffs for a sixth straight year – the longest such streak in the Eastern Conference. Now, comes a summer of rebuilding a team that has been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs each of the past two seasons.

``Obviously, I’m disappointed in the fourth quarter and the series, but I told our guys that I’m not the least disappointed in our approach to games over the last few weeks and in the playoffs,’’ Van Gundy said. ``They were resilient and I couldn’t have asked for more from them. That continued right into tonight. We got in an early hole and you wondered if our guys would let it go, but clearly we didn’t. We squeezed it hard in the third quarter and we were in position in the fourth. But we just got beat by a better team.’’

Ryan Anderson had 14 points and four 3-pointers, while J.J. Redick scored 12 points off the Magic bench. Danny Granger scored 25 points for the Pacers – playoff winners for the first time in seven seasons – but it was the pick-and-roll play of backup point guard Darren Collison (19 points on nine of 10 shooting) that did in the Magic down the stretch.

``We learned in this series that we need a center to win,’’ Redick said. ``I’m not in this for hanging tough or giving a valiant effort. I play basketball to win and guys on this team for the most part play to win. It would have been nice to figure it out in this series because in every game we were right there at one point or another. But they just wore us down.’’

Here is look at back at some of the key moments from Tuesday’s Game 5 at Indiana’s Bankers Life Fieldhouse:


    MAGICAL MOMENTS

  • Nelson absolutely dominated the game in the third quarter, scoring 15 points and hitting three 3-pointers in the period. It helped the Magic outscore the Pacers 24-19 in the third quarter – their first advantage in a third quarter in the series. Prior to Tuesday, the Magic had been outscored 108-60 in the previous four third quarters.

    Nelson was locked in and in attack mode against George Hill and Darren Collison, hitting six of 10 shots and three of four 3-pointers in the third quarter alone.

    ``I was just thinking to stay in attack mode and keep looking for my shots,’’ said Nelson, who made 11 of 21 shots and five of eight 3-pointers. ``I was feeling it there in the third quarter and Stan kept calling my number.’’

  • Once down as much as 15 points in the first quarter, the Magic made a strong charge in the second period to get back into the game. Anderson and Nelson made two 3-pointers apiece in the second quarter, while Jason Richardson made another as the Magic got as close as 48-47.

    A 13-3 Magic run came on the heels of two Danny Granger 3-pointers that got the Pacers’ fans roaring again. The Magic shot just 42.5 percent early on and got outrebounded 23-17 in the first half, but they stayed in the game by hitting six 3-pointers and forcing 10 Indiana turnovers in the first 24 minutes.

    MAGIC MYSTERY

  • First and third quarters have been major issues in this series, and that was the case again from the start on Tuesday night.

    The Magic just four of their first 17 shots (23.5 percent) and found themselves trailing 28-13 after 10 minutes. At that point, it looked like the game was teetering on becoming a blowout in favor the surging Pacers. But Orlando again used solid play from its reserves to get back into the game in the second quarter.

  • After the Magic went ahead 73-71 with 11:03 to play, Van Gundy tried to steal a couple of minutes of rest for Nelson, who would undoubtedly be needed down the stretch to carry the offense.

    But the results were disastrous as Chris Duhon had a layup attempt blocked and Hedo Turkoglu shot an airball as the Pacers scored seven straight points. Nelson re-entered the game, but by then it was too late as the Pacers captured the momentum and kept it rolling down the stretch.

    ``The third quarter had been so bad and we pushed Jameer and Glen the entire quarter. They had been our two key guys and we just didn’t have enough left down the stretch,’’ Van Gundy said. ``In the fourth quarter we couldn’t do too much offensively and the Collison pick-and-rolls just killed us. He was the difference. He turned it and was the guy in the fourth quarter. It’s a very disappointing result.’’

    MAGIC MOVES

  • After a tumultuous season in which he feuded publicly with Howard over the issue of asking for him to be fired, Van Gundy said after the game that it’s his hope that he’ll coach the Magic again next season. Van Gundy has a year remaining on his contract, but his future will be decided by the DeVos family and CEO Alex Martins in the coming weeks.

    ``Yeah, I want to come back, but that’s not up to me,’’ Van Gundy said. ``As far as the speculation, I’d say the same thing I’ve been saying all year – who gives a damn.

    They’ll make a decision when they make a decision. I’m not going to worry about it, I’ll tell you that. As long as I’m coaching I’ll continue to do my work and I’ll get ready for next year. If they want to make a change, make a change. That’s up to them.’’

  • Two statistics that Van Gundy has harped on all series long continued to be major issues for the Magic. The Pacers had an 18-0 edge in fastbreak points on Tuesday and a 69-13 bulge on fastbreak points in the series.

    Using its much bigger frontline to push the Magic around down low, Indiana had a 22-12 edge in second-chance points. And in the series, the Pacers outscored the Magic 91-66 on second-chance points.

  • Some of Anderson’s obvious frustration in the series bubbled over in the first quarter when he angrily grabbed David West (12 points) around the waist for his second foul.

    Seconds earlier, Anderson missed a 3-pointer and then had a layup attempt blocked by West. Anderson felt that he was fouled on the play and grabbed West out of frustration. Anderson missed five of his first six shots and had a tough time slowing Indiana’s Roy Hibbert and West on the defensive end of the floor.

  • Nelson said that while this season will go down as a disappointment because of the first-round ouster, he said he’ll most remember the way the Magic continued to fight even after Howard went down with the back injury. The Magic notched some big wins down the stretch to stave off the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers for the sixth seed, and the Magic briefly shocked the basketball world with their Game 1 defeat of the Pacers.

    ``We just really competed,’’ said Nelson, who averaged 15.6 points and 6.6 assists in the series and might now opt out of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent. ``Dwight is the most dominant player in the game and he’s our best player and it was very unfortunate that he had to sit out because of the surgery. But at the same time, we stuck together as a unit and we fought as hard as we could.’’

    John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com

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