The Indiana Pacers cruised to a 97-74 victory over the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center in Game 3 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff matchup, taking a 2-1 series lead and in the process snatching back home court advantage.
The Pacers came out all guns blazing right from the get-go, scoring eight unanswered points before Turkoglu got the ball rolling for the Magic with a three.
But the writing already was on the wall by then for Orlando.
Indiana maintained their high-tempo style of play throughout the first quarter, with the Magic having no rebounds for almost the first eight minutes of the game. The Pacers made nine of their first 10 field goals, which included three three-pointers in as many attempts.
And six of the nine field goals came off assists, underlining Indiana coach Frank Vogel’s message to his players of making that extra pass to find an open man for the easier shot.
The mood in the Amway Center seemed to be on the somber side with "We Believe" banners out in the crowd. The importance of Dwight Howard can seldom be overstated and his absence definitely has had an impact on the morale of the team and its fans. Glen “Big Baby” Davis, starting at center in place of Howard, definitely had big shoes to fill, but he surely did the best he could on this occasion.
What he lacked in skill, he made up with desire.
He showed a lot of hustle throughout the first half. He was instrumental in cutting down Indiana’s lead to just two points from a first half-high of 11 by making four consecutive baskets in one particular stretch.
Unfortunately for Orlando, that was the closest they got.
The Pacers went into halftime with a six-point lead, but the worst was yet to come for the Magic. Indiana started the second half with more vehemence and venom and began to pull away.
With Ryan Anderson guarding Roy Hibbert, the Pacers were quick to pounce on the mismatch and decided to feed Hibbert, who started posting up and making easy buckets.
Glen Davis, with his low center of gravity, might have been a more difficult obstacle for Hibbert to overcome, but that comment in no way is intended to take the shine off of Hibbert’s effort. He ended the night with 18 points and 10 rebounds. As for the third quarter—the turning point of the game—the Magic were outscored by 15 points.
That set up the fourth quarter as a merely ceremonial affair, with Orlando at no stage showing any indication of a comeback. Barring a few occasions, they looked jaded. J.J. Redick tried to restore parity by coming off the bench, but his 13-point effort was too little, too late.
The Pacers, on the back of Granger’s 26 points and nine rebounds, ended up victorious.
They clearly are now the favorites to take this seven-game series over a depleted Orlando team running out of ideas real fast—at least based on tonight’s performance.
But this is the playoffs, and it is never over 'til it's over.
But you can definitely count on Frank Vogel and his unselfish and selfless Indian Pacers—who seem to have hit the right balance without breaking a sweat—to come up with the goods and have the final say!