INDIANAPOLIS — The Orlando Magic seemed to have the Indiana Pacers on the ropes at halftime of Game 2 of their postseason series Monday night. The Magic weathered an early Pacers run to begin the game, then stormed back to take a lead by piling up one offensive rebound after another.
Then, Orlando suddenly fell flat just as Indiana ramped up its effort.
That energy disparity made all the difference. The Pacers overwhelmed the Magic in the third quarter, broke open a close game and won 93-78 to even the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.
“In the third quarter, they just kicked our butt,” Magic center Glen Davis said. “They got every loose ball.”
Orlando made just 35.5 percent of its shots and gave up 22 fastbreak points while scoring only two fastbreak points of its own.
“They beat us with their effort and their energy tonight, and that’s not acceptable,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said.
Davis scored a team-high 18 points, but he missed 11 of his 16 shots, and collected 10 rebounds.
And he didn’t receive much help. Nelson went 4-for-13 from the field and finished with 12 points. Jason Richardson managed just two points.
The body language on the bench in the early stages of the fourth quarter told the story.
Nelson sat at the end, his torso wrapped in a towel. Richardson sat next to him, a towel around his neck. Hedo Turkoglu sat next to him, a towel covering his head. They stared ahead, out onto the Bankers Life Fieldhouse floor in front of them.
There almost was nothing for them to like — at least not in the second half.
It turned when the less-experienced, taller Pacers went on a 14-0 run in the third quarter.
It started when David West made a free throw with 6:41 to go in the period. Then, after a missed jumper by Nelson, Danny Granger scored on a runner off the glass as he was fouled by Turkoglu, and Granger converted the ensuing foul shot to put Indiana up 59-55.
After a foul by Nelson, West made the first of two free throws. When West missed the second, the Pacers grabbed the rebound, and George Hill made the Magic pay by making a 3-pointer.
The run was on.
Indiana’s hustle fueled it. The Pacers outrebounded the Magic 15-1 to begin the quarter and 16-4 over the entire period.
“A terrific win for our club,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “A gutsy playoff-type win. Holding them to 35 percent shooting is a strong defensive effort. They’re a challenging team to guard.”
Five Pacers players scored in double figures, with Hill, West and Granger scoring 18 points apiece.
Game 3 will be held at 7:30 Wednesday night at Amway Center.
Monday’s victory was critical to Indiana’s hopes. In NBA history, only three teams have won a best-of-seven playoff series after losing the first two games on their home floors.
A Magic victory in Game 2 looked possible for a while. In the second quarter, Orlando was beating Indiana to loose basketballs and was playing with the same grit it has shown since Dwight Howard was ruled out for the postseason because of back surgery. In the first half, Orlando outrebounded Indiana 25 to 20.
Then, the Pacers just swamped the Magic.
“I just think their momentum was greater than ours,” Magic power forward Ryan Anderson said. “They fought harder than us. They made some tough shots and made some hustle plays.”