The Orlando Magic are in trouble.
Almost nothing is working. The Indiana Pacers’ starters overwhelm their starters in the first and third quarters. The Magic’s vaunted 3-point shooting and Ryan Anderson have disappeared. And Roy Hibbert dominates on the defensive end of the court.
The Pacers hammered the Magic 97-74 in Game 3 Wednesday night at Amway Center. Indiana now leads the best-of-seven series two games to one.
“You have team wins and you have team losses, and this was a team loss,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Coaching loss. Team loss. We’re all in it together. I don’t think anyone played well. Anyone for us.”
But the starters struggled most, just as they did in Game 1 and in Game 2.
The Pacers took an 11-point lead in the game’s first six minutes. After the Magic fought back before the end of the first half, the starters were on the floor while the Pacers pulled away in the third quarter.
“They’re doing what they need to do at the right time,” Magic center Glen Davis said. “They’re playing extremely harder than us at some times of the game. Their energy level is consistent. I think that’s one of our biggest problems in the first and third quarter. We can’t play from behind.”
The Magic never led on Wednesday.
They never even tied the score.
And their deficiencies without Dwight Howard have become obvious.
The Pacers have decided they will not allow the Magic to beat them from beyond the 3-point line. Orlando averaged a league-high 27.0 attempts per game from 3-point range during the regular season, but on Wednesday, they only managed 15 attempts.
Hibbert, all 7 feet 2 of him, patrols the lane, and the Pacers consistently leave Davis wide-open on pick-and-pop plays, which allows the rest of the Pacers to stay on their men and eliminates the need for them to rotate.
The Magic have no one who can punish the taller and more athletic Pacers with post-ups, and J.J. Redick has been the only one who has driven to the rim with any success on a consistent basis.
Davis finished with a team-high 22 points on 10-of-18 shooting and almost single-handedly willed the Magic back into the game in the second quarter.
But what is benefitting Davis is hurting Anderson.
Anderson finished with seven points on 2-of-6 shooting, and he did not score a point until he sank a 3-pointer with 8:18 left in regulation. By that time, the game’s outcome already was a certainty.
“I’m not going to lie,” Anderson said. “Yeah, it’s frustrating as a group in general to lose a game like this, but obviously we can bounce back.”
Van Gundy assigned Anderson to guard Hibbert and assigned Davis to guard David West.
Although West finished with just 4 points, Hibbert scored 18 points, and he also collected 10 rebounds, blocked three shots and altered plenty of others.
“If they try to put Ryan Anderson on Roy, we’ll go to Roy,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “If they put Glen Davis on Roy, we’ll attack the better matchup.”
Just as in the series’ first two games, the Pacers hit their stride in the third quarter. On Wednesday, Indiana routed Orlando 32-17 in the period as Hibbert scored 12 points and blocked a pair of shots.
When West missed a layup with 29.9 seconds left in the quarter, Hibbert grabbed the rebound and finished off the play with a dunk.
His teammates sprung up from the bench with wide smiles on their faces.
And Pacers shooting guard Paul George sensed that the Magic had crumbled.
"This is a veteran ball group, so they generally know how to keep their composure, but tonight you know it seems like they were kind of broken up a little bit,” George said. “And I mean, that's what we want. That's the reason why we're playing hard right now.”
Magic fans started streaming toward the exits early in the fourth quarter.
They had seen enough.
Game 4 is scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
Van Gundy did not rule out making some changes to his lineup.
“We still believe,” Davis said. “We’re still in the fight. It’s not like we’re down two games. We’re just down one, and the next game’s at home.”