No magic to Pacers' third-quarter dominance
Orlando, Fla., (May 3, 2012) -- Given the results, you'd think something mystical was happening in the Pacers' locker room at halftime.
Does Frank Vogel turn into Vince Lombardi and make fiery, epic speeches to motivate his players? Do Brian Shaw, Jim Boylen and Dan Burke reveal the deepest, darkest secrets of basketball strategy and tactics? Does the training staff distribute a special energy elixir?
Turns out, it's much less exciting than that -- but no less effective.
The players and coaches gather, watch some film, identify trouble spots that need to be addressed, make some adjustments, and then go out and take over the game.
Utter dominance of the third quarter has given the Pacers a 2-1 lead and control of their first-round playoff series with the Magic. In winning Games 2 and 3, they outscored Orlando 62-30 in the period and put together two devastating runs. In Game 2, it was 25-5. In Game 3, it was 19-5.
"It seems like in the first half we really get a chance to see everything that's going on and when we come back from the locker room, Coach prepares us again," Paul George said. "He tells us what's working and what's not working and when we see it on film it's a real eye-opener. We just go out there and bust the game open."
Much of the work has been done defensively. Orlando has averaged 14.3 points in the third quarters of all three games, shot 37.5 percent and committed 17 turnovers.
Even in the Game 1 loss, the Pacers played shutdown defense in the third. They trailed 51-44 at the break, held Orlando to 13 and cut the deficit to 64-63 entering the fourth. Orlando eventually rallied down the stretch for an 81-77 win.
In Game 2, they trailed 44-42 at the break but torched the Magic in the third, outscoring the visitors 30-13 and compiling advantages of 16-4 on the boards and 13-2 in second-chance points to head into the fourth quarter up 15, which also happened to be the final margin (93-78).
In Game 3, the Pacers had their first halftime lead of the series, but it was slim at 44-38. They scored the first six points of the second half and then put it away with a 19-5 burst that pushed the margin to 23 -- also the same as the final (97-74).
"I think we're adjusting," Roy Hibbert said. "We see what they're doing, they made their run the end of the first half, we adjusted and we just tried to lay it on them as much as possible.
"They're a good 3-point shooting team and we wanted to make sure we either took away their 3-point shots or contested every 3-point shot they attempted, so luckily we did that, we got the rebound and executed on offense."
One adjustment the Pacers haven't made has been to react to the production of Orlando center Glen "Big Baby" Davis.
You'd think, after he scored 16 in the second quarter Wednesday to single-handedly keep the Magic in the game, the Pacers might be tempted to shift a little more focus his way.
You'd think wrong.
"We understand they're going to make plays," David West said. "I don't think we're going to panic with (Davis) making plays because we've got confidence in our ability to contain.
"The way we look at it is, if he gets going, it means (J.J.) Redick's not shooting threes, (Ryan) Anderson's not shooting threes, the ball's out of Jameer Nelson's hands. I thought it worked in our favor."
The trend has left Orlando clearly frustrated, searching for solutions to the dominance of Indiana's starting lineup. The Pacers have started all three games well, jumping out 19-9 in Game 1, 18-7 in Game 2 and 21-10 in Game 3 but Orlando has battled back each time to either wipe out or minimize the edge heading into the locker room.
But then comes what has been Orlando's worst nightmare: the third quarter.