For the first half at least, the Indiana Pacers looked like they were on track to knock off the Orlando Magic. Roy Hibbert was outplaying Dwight Howard and no one else on the Magic was dominant. In the second half, the Magic started to impose their class, and despite some poor shooting from the outside (5-27) and the foul line (11-19), the Pacers were right in it until the very end, when Jameer Nelson outmanouvred TJ Ford and completed a three-point play. Final score, 90-86.
Look, the Magic are a top three team in the East, while the Pacers are supposed to be a bottom-three team. This wasn't a game they were supposed to win, but they came awfully close. They hung with a great team all the way to the end and came up short, even though they couldn't hit a shot to save their lives. Nothing to be ashamed of. It's a good learning experience, something this young team can build on.
Interesting stat sheet. Paul George and Solomon Jones did not play. Danny Granger shot only 5-18 and finished with 13 points, but Roy Hibbert led the way with 19 and 10. He was outplaying Dwight Howard until Howard took over in the second half and put Hibbert in foul trouble. That was the key turning point in the game.
Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy had some kind words to say about the Pacers after the game.
"I think Indiana is good. We are on the road playing, and it was a very tough loss for them. I'd be surprised if Indiana isn't a playoff team, with Hibbert getting better and (Danny) Granger. We'll see them in the postseason."
Let's hope he's right.
Next up, one of the my most anticipated games of the season against the new look Miami Heat. I'm hoping for two full-strength teams. There's a good chance Darren Collison will be back from his ankle injury, and perhaps Dwyane Wade will return from his wrist injury. Win or lose, it'll be a good test for the Pacers. At least they are playing the Heat now, when Lebron, Wade and Bosh haven't figured out how to play with each other yet.