Indiana Pacers 98, Orlando Magic 109
The only positive thing I can say about the way the Pacers are playing lately is that they are really helping me brush up on my math skills. They have trailed by at least 23 points in four of their last six games, and I have spent the bulk of that time trying to calculate things like 52 minus 28 or the difference between 33 and 17. And for this, I must thank you, Pacers. Because aside from the division it takes to split dinner checks six ways or the occasional time zone change, my mathematical abilities are seldom-used and decaying by the day.
Some people might say, “But Jared, what about the comeback in the 4th? They cut the deficit to 8 at one point after a Troy trey and a nice pull-up jumper by Granger.” Well, Mrs. Theoretical Question Poser With a Detailed Memory of the 4th Quarter Play-By-Play, that was what we at 8p9s like to call a “faux comeback.”
You see, it is very hard for an NBA team that is up by 15 or more points to really keep playing optimally. Players relax a little, take some off-balance shots, throw a few cutesy passes around and just generally lose that “edge” that makes them go for the jugular. And normally, it doesn’t matter. They still win. It’s human nature to ease up a little, and although I’m sure all coaches reprimand their players for it, it’s infrequent that it ever leads to a to a monumental collapse. Things like what the Pacers did last week — coming back from 23 down — are very rare. That’s why it’s so incredibly odd that it happened twice in a row.
But it doesn’t mean they have some uncanny ability to comeback. It’s just an meaningless oddity for Elias Sports to track. Something really irregular happened. And then it happened again. Weird. But not particularly relevant to the rest of the season. The odds are overwhelmingly against it ever occurring again, and if you ask anyone in the Suns or Raptors organization “What happened, dude?” they would undoubtedly say “We totally blew it” and not “Man, those Pacers just don’t quit.”
The Pacers made some shots in the second half and between that and a long offensive drought for Orlando in to start the fourth quarter allowed Indiana to make this thing look respectable. But it really wasn’t.
The fact is that the Pacers have to play very, very well to beat a team as talented as Orlando. And by picking up three fouls in less than three minutes, Danny Granger pretty much assured that that was not going to happen. You could argue that Jim O’Brien should have taken him out after he picked up foul number two (on a charge) just 1:06 into the game. But Danny needs to understand that this team needs him on the floor and not pick up that third one. Still, foul number three again came on offense while he was being aggressive — and I’ve been pleading with him to be more aggressive offensively off the bounce all year — so I really can’t be too, too upset at that. Had it been a reach-in foul or an over-the-back, I would be less understanding.
After he went to bench, the Magic scored 9 points on their next four possessions (3 threes with a Dwight Howard offensive foul in between) to start an 18-10 run and take a 26-12 lead overall. So O’Brien figured, as Orlando color commentator Matt Guokas said, “why not?” and put Danny back in with a few minutes left in the first quarter.
It didn’t really help.
The Magic ended the first up 40-20 and the game felt all but over. “Can the Pacers petition the league for running time” is how my 8p9s co-conspirator Tim Donahue put it soon after. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong — other than everything — and I’m not going to waste your time listing all the bad possessions Indy wasted and the defensive assignments they blew. But the worst of the worst came from Mike Dunleavy. Twice during the quarter, he was the man responsible for stopping the 6’1″, 34-year-old Jason Williams from scoring on the break. And both times, he gave such a lacksadaisical, pseudo attempt at defense that I was personally embarrassed for him. No one is ever going to confuse Lil’ Dun for Ron Artest, but JWill was able to not only freeze him but make him nearly flinch away like an abused dog just with a simple head-and-shoulder fake to such a degree that the layup was uncontested at the cup both times. Truly awful stuff from Mike.
But it wasn’t just Junior, obviously. In their win over Orlando just two weeks ago, Indiana allowed 24 free-throw attempts and 38.4% shooting while committing 11 turnovers in the whole game. In just one quarter tonight, they allowed 11 free-throw attempts and 60.9% shooting while coughing up the rock 7 times.
And, oh yeah, those 40 points.
The second quarter wasn’t as bad statistically, but there wasn’t much qualitative improvement inside my TV set. Nonexistent defense once again allowed a 9-points-in-four-possession stretch after two threes and a silly Dahntay Jones foul during a Ryan Anderson three point attempt. After the accurate big man made all three freebies, the Magic were up 59-30 and this one was academic.
According to Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star, Coach ripped the team a new one at the half. Danny, for his part, at least realized he deserved it.
“He got into (us),” Granger said. “We’re not always tied together as a team. We make selfish plays on offense and defense. We argue with each other instead of getting mad at the other team. We deserve everything he told us. We can’t get down 25 points every game we play.”
You can head over there or perhaps Cornrows (haven’t actually read Tom’s piece yet) for more on the “comeback.”
Me? I’m not gonna waste your time pretending that was based on reality. That was just Orlando taking their foot off Indy’s throat for a few minutes until they realized the dog wasn’t completely dead.
But it was.
There might have been a little movement left, but it was just their residual tension in their muscles twitching around before the clocked ticked all the way to zero in what was their 17th double-digit loss of the season. For perspective, they only had 14 last year. And that was in 82 games, not 42.
Five Other Things
(1) Hibbert was virtually worthless this time against Dwight after having perhaps the best game of his career against Superman last time out. 3 points and 3 boards in 18 minutes. Thanks for coming out.
(2) Matt Guokas is perhaps my favorite announcer in the league not named Clyde Frazier. He had an extended exchange with play-by-play guy David Steele about whether or not Dwight should continue to shoot the 15- to 18-footers that he was banking in against the Lakers on Monday. Steele said that he ought to as long as he can make 50% of them, just to keep the defense honest. But since he shoots such a high percentage around the rim, shooting anything less than 50% from the mid-range wouldn’t make the benefits worth it. Guokas then explained to him that almost no one in the entire NBA shoots 50% from the mid-range (NBA average from 10-23 feet is about 40%), and that Dwight’s 70% rate of finishing around the rim, while impressive, is not other-worldly. Indeed, some 100 NBA players shoot well above 65% at the hoop and his 45.9% shooting on those shots that aren’t layups but are within 10 feet is actually pretty low. (Derrick Rose, for example, shoots 61% on these attempts, while KG shoots 59% and even Chris Kaman is around 55%.) I’m expounding a little here on Guokas’ exact thoughts by getting so specific, but hearing a color commentator discuss the nuances of shot location efficiency on TV is the type of thing that gets me all sorts of dork excited. It provides such hope for the future of advanced stat stuff and at the same time exposes the ignorance maintained by many of those tasked with explaining the game to the mass public. No offense to Steele, who I usually like, but Guokas showed how much better and well-prepared he was to talk about basketball in public in under a minute. It was the highlight of the game for me. Not sure who that’s sadder for: me or the Pacers.
(3) Granger finished with a decent stat line and looked better in the second half. 25 points on 9/19 with 6 boards isn’t bad. Shooting 2/7 from behind the arc sure is though. Same ol’, same ol’.
(4) Matt Barnes got hyped early in this one, in part by drawing two offensive fouls from Danny Granger in the opening three minutes. This all culminated in him collecting a career-high 16 boards. Not sure where, but I distinctly recall someone saying Indy shouldn’t let him be a sparkplug in the opening quarter. Similarly, Vince Carter had a sweet alley-oop dunk in the first quarter. That, too, was something that the sage wisdom I read earlier recommended the Pacers avoid. AND IF I RECALL CORRECTLY, HE WROTE IT IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS FOR EMPHASIS SINCE THAT’S HOW BLOGGERS MAKE POINTS DRAMATICALLY. I don’t remember who wrote that though. (Spoiler alert: it was me today in “Other Things” #3 and #5. And the point here isn’t that I’m particularly smart — that’s provably false. The point is that this stuff is rather obvious. You don’t let Matt Barnes be a factor when your main concern has to be slowing down Dwight, Rashard and Vince.)
(5) I got nothing else. This game sucked.
The Saddest Place on Earth: By The Numbers