Both the Orlando Magic and the Indiana Pacers were on a roll at Conseco Fieldhouse last night as the Magic barely squeaked by with a 90-86 victory in the battle of the centers. It was Roy Hibbert versus Dwight Howard, all day, all night.
Howard totaled up 25 points and twelve rebound while Hibbert put up 19 points and ten rebounds. Hibbert was dominating Howard throughout the game, but No. 12 would get the revenge towards the end of the match-up.
The big play to end the game came on a three-point play made by point guard Jameer Nelson. He made the shot with 33 seconds to go. But the Indy couldn’t pull through.
“It was huge,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We made our free throws down the stretch. It was a very difficult win and a very tough loss for them because I thought both teams played very, very hard and fought very, very hard.”
Howard was bullied in the first half, and only totaled six points as the Pacers were up 52-49. Indy was showing how a good of a team they really are. Howard would also have three fouls by halftime, but played well after the first half, having 19 points.
“I think the first half, my foul trouble was stupid,” Howard said. “Reaching instead of going for blocks, just throwing people out of the way. That’s stuff that I shouldn’t be doing and I think in the second half, I tried to beat them down the court and force them to foul me.”
Rashard Lewis also helped out a lot, having made five crucial three-pointers. He made his shots nice, calm, and smoothly. He helped make the difference and ended up with 21 points for the game.
Howard turned it around in the next half completely.
“He had a tough first half,” Van Gundy said. “He was in foul trouble, then he gets 19 and 10 in the second half and had a couple of big blocks.”
The Magic were trailing 86-85 in the final minute after T.J. Ford made a jumper from ten feet away. He was then fouled and converted on the shot to bring Indy up by one. However, Vince Carter would come back and help the Magic squeak by with his key shots. At the end, the Pacers had chances to win, but missed on three-point attempts by Danny Granger and James Posey in the final seconds.
The Magic played hard defense in the second half, limiting Indiana to 34 points.
“We’ve been a pretty good road team over the years since I’ve been here, especially since Stan’s been here,” Nelson said. “It’s hard to go on the road because you don’t have the energy coming from your fans. It’s good to win games with your defense and your intensity.”
Although five players were in double-figures, Indy was 39-percent from the field. Danny Granger had 13 points in the game while Brandon Rush had 14.
This game proves to me that Hibbert is the true leader now for the Pacers. He keeps leading Indy. It’s sometimes unusual to see a center being the leader of the squad, but this Pacers team could be the next big three the San Antonio Spurs currently have with Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan. I will write a column later on about this.
Mike Dunleavy had ten points in the game.
The Pacers are now 5-6. They will face the Miami Heat next on the road, and this is going to be an extremely tough game, considering how good this Heat team is. But don’t be surprised if the Pacers come out on top. We already just saw this happen:
Will it be Granger’s turn to do this? I guess we’ll see.
Overall, I thought this was a great game played by Indiana. But they got a tough stretch of games coming up, and they better play strong. Come on Pacers!