The Indiana Pacers lost their first home game of the season to the Orlando Magic, 102-83. It was a letdown game after the big win in LA against the Lakers, but what was more disappointing was the way in which the team lost. After a stellar first quarter where they led 29-22, the Pacers fell apart the rest of the game, even with Dwight Howard on the bench with foul trouble for most of the second quarter. They gave up far too many open shots, threw away the ball with sloppy passes, and missed just about everything.
Ugly, ugly effort against a team that scored just 56 points the night before against the Celtics.
Roy Hibbert played with a face mask to protect his broken nose and led the way with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Granger had 16 and Collison chipped in with 11, but the team had no answers for Dwight Howard and the Magic's shooters and cutters.
So with what appeared to be a couple of steps forward after the close wins against the Warriors and Lakers, the Pacers have once again taken a big step back. So are they a genuine top 4 seed contender in the East or are they still pretenders? Your guess is as good as mine. On any given night they can be both.
The Pacers are now 11-5 to start the season, including 5-1 at home. The encouraging thing is that they've played most of their games on the road (10 road vs 6 home), but if they keep playing like this at home it's not going to make much of a difference.
Anyway, the Pacers go back on the road again for another 3 games, and it's going to be rough with the opponents being the Bulls tomorrow night, followed by Boston and then Orlando again. Could this be a 4-game losing streak in the making?
For some reason, I am quietly optimistc about the Bulls game. Luol Deng, who seems to give the Pacers fits, is out with a wrist injury, and Derrick Rose is apparently not 100%, though even a 70% Derrick Rose is 70% too much for most teams. Paul George better be ready. David West ought to give the Bulls something they haven't seen before in matching up against the 'softer' Carlos Boozer, and Tyler Hansbrough is set for a breakout game after recent struggles. I am hoping that this loss against the Magic will prompt the Pacers to ramp up their offense against the league's best defense.
As for the Celtics and Magic, I'm not so sure. It's hard to see the Pacers beat the Celts for the third time in a row, and this Magic team is full of matchup problems. That said, whenever I talk this Pacers team down, they surprise me, so let's hope they can again.