It wasn't pretty, but the Pacers did what they had to do, breaking open a tight game in the third quarter to cruise to a 93-78 win and evening their first round series against the Magic at 1-1.
The Pacers got out to an early lead, but the Magic, to their credit, came back to take the lead. I said at the beginning of the series that it was going to be a tough series. Yes, the Magic are without Dwight Howard, but they still have a dangerous team full of experienced veterans and a quality coach in Stan Van Gundy, while the Pacers are still an inexperienced playoff squad trying to find their identity. The Pacers have been a grind it out team all season and there's no reason to expect that they would simply walk through the Magic, with or without Dwight Howard. That said, it still sucks watching them struggle.
And struggle they did in game 2. Despite the score, this was not the kind of game that would make you think, "The Pacers have finally figured it out and will win easily for the remainder of the series." Nope. This was the kind of game which makes you think, "This is going to be a long, difficult series."
For me to be wrong, Danny Granger needs to find his mark. He had another shocker in game 2, shooting just 7-21 including 1-10 from three point range. Ouch. At least he hit all three free throws. Roy Hibbert needs to stay on the floor. The big man was supposed to dominate the Magic's smaller front line but instead was troubled by the speed of their shorter forwards and got in foul trouble early, finishing with just 4 points on 5 field goal attempts.
But it's not just these two. The Pacers as a team have not been playing well so far. They're not the greatest passing team but still, they are not sharing the ball like they should be. They were second last during the regular season (ahead of OKC) with 18.6 assists per game, but in game 2? A dismal 9 assists. That's right, of their 33 made field goals, the Pacers assisted on just 9 of them. That's got to improve because you know the Magic are going to make adjustments.
To be fair, the Pacers just need to win one of the next two to be back in control, but given the expectations they have set for themselves, they should aim to get both games in Orlando.