The defensive woes are equally or greater compounded by those on the offensive end. Hedo, Ryan Anderson and Jason Richardson COMBINED to score just 17 points tonight. That 17 point number looks even better considering that Ryan was scoreless heading into the 4th quarter (finished with 7) and Hedo didn’t score again after the 1st quarter (finished with 5.)
The game changed dramatically in the third period, which has been throughout this series when the Pacers do their best work. Indy routed the Magic, 32-17, in the period and built a 23-point lead at one juncture before Orlando managed to trim its deficit to 21 points entering the fourth. Hibbert came alive in the third, scoring 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting with five rebounds; his energy at both ends of the floor bedeviled the Magic, who adjusted their defense at halftime by switching Ryan Anderson to Hibbert and Davis onto David West. Thanks in large part to Davis’ defense, West shot only 1-of-5 for two points in the period, but Hibbert’s dominance inside made it a moot point.
Orlando again struggled to get good shots on a consistent basis. The team shot 42.3 percent from the floor, but the effect from Roy Hibbert was bigger than those numbers again. Hibbert had another three blocks and plenty more altered shots or abandoned drives. The Magic, and especially Jameer Nelson, were trying to get into the paint but often failed to turn the corner or abandoned the drive without an attempt at the rim. This often led to wild passes out to the perimeter and Indiana was fast enough to rotate back out and prevent Orlando from getting off too many 3-pointers.
A slow start to Wednesday night sapped the life out of the Amway Center and then the Pacers did the rest by gashing the Magic in a variety of ways in a lopsided 97-74 Indiana win in Game 3 of the best-of-seven series.
“They’re doing what they need to do at the right time and they’re playing harder than us,’’ Magic forward Glen “Big Baby’’ Davis said of Indiana. “Their energy level is consistent. One of our biggest problems is that in the first and the third quarters, we can’t keep playing from behind. We don’t have room for mistakes.’’
Van Gundy put Glen “High Stepping” Davis on West and Vogel changed things up by going to Roy Hibbert in the post with Ryan Anderson trying to guard him. Hibbert had his best game of the series when he scored 18 points to go with 10 rebounds and three blocks.
The victory was the sixth straight on the road for the Pacers. They say going into places like the Staples Center, Dallas and Chicago has helped some of their young players out.
Yet, if there’s one thing this series has proven, it’s that repetition is key. Indiana has started quickly in all three games, but the second unit has routinely given up the double digit lead Indiana to give Orlando fresh life. When the hot shooting turned ice cold, it was certainly no surprise they’d only put in two more points for the rest of the quarter, yet to break the Groundhog Day cycle, the bench made up for their offensive inefficiency by locking down on defense and creating turnovers to maintain the lead and even flush out for a Darren Collison (mostly) dunk to maintain a solid 9-point lead after one.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, ESPN Florida’s Magic Insider (http://ESPNFlorida.com) and is the co-host of the ESPNFlorida.com Insiders Show Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him onTwitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here)