Choking implies that the team gave away the game in the closing moments.
What the Pacers did was give away the game bit by bit from the opening tip: The Pacers lost the game because they were beat at the point guard position multiple times throughout the game.
If you are a Pacers fan, and I were to tell you before the game that your All-Star center, Roy Hibbert, would near a triple-double while recording nine blocks, you would likely be very excited.
You would now know that this silver lining of course encircles a very dark cloud.
Why did Hibbert even need to block nine shots, anyways?
Typically, when a center blocks a shot, it is because someone from the other team has penetrated into the paint for an open look, and the center is rotating over in help defense.
Most of Hibbert's blocks came in just that scenario: Some came against Jameer Nelson, others came against whomever Nelson found for what appeared to be an easy layup.
The Pacers guards—George Hill in particular—should be falling over themselves to buy Hibbert dinner after he cleaned up their mistakes so often in Game 1. His effort helped mask the real reason why the Pacers gave away home court advantage.
Most people point out the three-point shooting of the Magic, in tandem with the Pacers' missed free throws and shots late in the fourth quarter, as the cause of the collapse.
But so many of those three pointers were the result of the Magic ball handlers successfully penetrating into the paint and drawing defenders, only to kick out to a wide open teammate beyond the arc.
Simply put: Prevent drives into the paint, and players can stick to their defensive assignments. The result? Less open shots.
Everyone except for Stan Van Gundy and his players expected the Pacers to defeat the Magic with ease. If the Pacers' guards could have stayed in front of their defensive assignments, everyone except for Van Gundy and his players would have been right.
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