Saturday, May 5 at Orlando,2:00 p.m.
Countdown to Tipoff: Game 4 Pacers (2-1) vs. Magic (1-1)
By Conrad Brunner
SCOUTING THE PACERS: It has been more than a month since the Pacers last lost on the road. They finished the season winning their last five and made it six in a row with a 97-74 rout in Orlando Wednesday night. If they can extend the streak to seven Saturday in Amway Center, they will have a firm grasp on the best-of-seven series. It could be argued the Pacers already have that, given their consistently improving performances and 2-1 lead. Their point total has risen in each game (from 77 to 93 to 97) as Orlando's has declined (from 81 to 78 to 74), a compelling indicator of the direction this series has taken.
The defense has limited Orlando to 77.7 points per game on 39 percent shooting as Indiana has controlled the lane at both ends. Offensively, they've outscored Orlando 128-76 on points in the paint, 56-43 on second-chance points and won the battle of the boards 142-116. The third quarter has been the key to each of the victories, as the Pacers have outscored Orlando 62-30.
The bench remains a source of concern. Indiana's reserves have combined to shoot 32.4 percent and average 19 points per game, causing Coach Frank Vogel to lean more heavily than usual on the starters. None averaged more than 33.3 minutes during the regular season, but Danny Granger (39.3), David West (37.0) and Paul George (34.3) all have exceeded that number thus far. The longer the series goes, the more problematic that could become, although the teams have had two days off between games.
SCOUTING THE MAGIC: A team searching for answers in the absence of its best player, Orlando has yet to establish an effective style at either end of the floor, but the lack of offense has been the biggest issue. Though Glen "Big Baby" Davis has had a big series filling in for the injured Dwight Howard at center, averaging 19.7 points and 9.0 rebounds, he is shooting just 43 percent and has had 12 shots blocked. Because the Pacers don't need to double-team Davis, there have been fewer openings on the perimeter.
The team's second-leading scorer during the regular season, power forward Ryan Anderson, has been completely ineffective, averaging just 7.7 points on 32 percent shooting, with almost as many fouls (14) as rebounds (15). Point guard Jameer Nelson was huge in the Game 1 win with 17 points and nine assists but totaled 22 points, eight assists and 7 of 23 shooting in the two losses. Small forward Hedo Turkoglu has been bothered by the mask he wears to protect a facial fracture and has averaged just 8.0 points on 36 percent shooting. Coach Stan Van Gundy might be tempted to make a lineup or rotation change as his starters have been outscored 214-155, a deficit of 19.7 per game. But with Howard out and a thin bench, his options are limited.
KEY MATCHUP: With the defense locking down the shorthanded Magic, the fast break has been devastating, outscoring Orlando by an astonishing 40-2 margin in the last two games, including 18-0 in Game 2. In the Magic's Game 1 win, the Pacers had just five fast-break points, so it's clear Orlando's primary challenge will be first to be more efficient offensively to reduce Indiana's opportunities to run and then make sure to get back in transition to defend the break.
QUOTE MARKS: "It’s something they established early this year. We understood the importance of winning on the road, and to be a great basketball team, and to go on a deep playoff run which is what we hoped to do starting this season. We knew we had to establish that road toughness, and you build on small successes. Early road wins this year at Chicago, at the Lakers and at Dallas, it’s helped us build that confidence and swagger that we can come into any building and beat any team." - Pacers Coach Frank Vogel
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, none are reported. For the Magic, Dwight Howard (back surgery) is out.
BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast on ESPN beginning at 2 p.m. The radio broadcast will air on WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle and Austin Croshere.
INTERACT: You can get in-game commentary from this group of Pacers personalities throughout the game on Twitter.