Pacers win over Orlando Magic shows hope on the defensive end

The Pacers played perhaps their best defensive game as a team on Sunday in their win over the Magic.
Indiana Pacers v Orlando Magic
Indiana Pacers v Orlando Magic / Don Juan Moore/GettyImages

After a demoralizing loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Indiana Pacers returned to action on Sunday to face Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic. Usually, Indiana can be counted on to have a solid bounce-back game after a loss like Thursday's, but it seemed like this wouldn't be the case at first.

While both teams didn't shoot particularly well in the first half, Indiana especially struggled, starting the game with a 2-12 deficit to Orlando and only shooting 1/11 from beyond the arc. Orlando's lead ballooned to as much as 15 points in the second quarter, after which the Pacers took control and went into halftime only down three points. At first, it seemed like this would be another typical Pacers loss, where they fall behind early and spend the rest of the night playing catch-up, but this would not be the case.

For lack of a better term, the Pacers wiped the floor with the Magic in the second half. While they produced mightily on the offensive end, scoring 64 points in the final 24 minutes and shooting 56% from the field and 58% from beyond the arc to make up for their 9% in the first half, it was their defense that took control of the game and never gave it back.

While the Magic didn't exactly shoot well to start the game, shooting 45% from the field and 33% from deep in the first half, it was at least serviceable enough to hold onto the lead with Indiana faltering on offense. In the second half, however, this quickly disappeared, as Indiana's otherwise lackluster defense held the Magic to a putrid 33% from the field and 20% from deep.

The Indiana Pacers defense may have turned a corner in win vs. Magic

All in all, nobody on Orlando's side could get it going, with rising star Paolo Banchero registering one of his worst shooting performances of the year, leading the team in scoring with 19 but doing so on 6/20 from the field and 1/8 from distance.

Some big help for the Pacers on this end were Aaron Nesmith and T.J. McConnell. Nesmith finished the night with two blocks, a steal, and some incredible defensive plays down the stretch, including drawing a few illegal screens on Orlando to give Indiana some much-needed extra possessions.

Of course, Indiana's best defender, Myles Turner, also did his part by holding opponents to 21% True Shooting while defending 22 shots. In total, Magic players shot 4/22 from the field and 1/7 from deep with Turner on them and only managed to score 10 points. This trio of Nesmith, McConnell, and Turner held it down on the defensive end, along with some help from Obi Toppin's steal and block.

All in all, Indiana's win against Orlando came down to their defense. Orlando's offense looked rather stagnant the entire game and was downright hard to watch at some points in the second half, thanks in part to the Pacers playing some of the best defense they have all year.

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This is a good sign for Indiana right after losing Bennedict Mathurin for the rest of the season. If the Pacers can play with anything close to this level of defensive intensity, the sky is the limit for this team going forward, with or without Mathurin.