INDIANAPOLIS — The Orlando Magic’s 81-77 win over the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 is being hailed in Orlando as a triumph of solidarity, team spirit and physical toughness.
All true. Magic players united once the team belatedly announced that Dwight Howard had a herniated disk, and the team grew even closer once Howard underwent back surgery. Meanwhile, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis and Earl Clark played hurt in Game 1. The “We All We Got” motto isn’t a bunch of lip service; the players and coaches truly believe it.
But here in Indiana, Game 1 isn’t viewed as a Magic success. It’s regarded as a Pacers failure, as a quintessential choke job, as both Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz wrote today and the Star’s Pacers beat writer, Mike Wells, noted in his article focusing on Danny Granger.
Those views also are accurate.
The Pacers took a 77-70 lead with 4:05 to go and never scored again. And Granger, the Pacers’ top scorer, missed a pair of free throws with 1:14 left, flubbed a 2-footer off the glass with 45.9 seconds remaining and traveled with 7.5 seconds to go, setting in motion a hilarious dance by Chris Duhon.
Do not underestimate the importance of the Magic of winning Game 1 as opposed to winning Game 2.
Indiana has far less playoff experience than Orlando, and all of those predictions that the Pacers would win the series in a walk likely put additional pressure on the Pacers.
Are doubts creeping in now?
But as much as the Pacers wilted down the stretch, they never fully utilized their advantages.
Let us count the ways:
• Roy Hibbert blocked nine shots and collected 13 rebounds, but he did not establish strong enough post position against Davis. According to the website HoopData, Hibbert made three of his six shot attempts from 3 feet and in. But Hibbert only tried one shot from 3 to 9 feet. And he tried one shot from 10 to 15 feet and three shots from 16 to 23 feet. Davis deserves credit for that. But Hibbert has to get more looks closer to the hoop.
• Indy never fully utilized Paul George’s athleticism and height advantages, and George didn’t take make good with the opportunities he did have, going just 4 for 11 from the field.
• And, worst of all, the Pacers missed nine of their 22 foul shots, which is inexcusable for any team, let alone one that considers itself a title contender.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times