In the first two games against the Pacers, the Magic showed they would take the fight to them. They would get after them and try to outwork them.
It should have been no surprise that in Game One Stan Van Gundy told his team at a timeout as they were weathering a storm from the Indiana defense that effort was the big key. It was what stunned the Pacers in the first game. But Van Gundy told his team then, "This team cannot outwork you."
For the first half of Game Two, the Magic certainly had that in their minds. The second half was a completely different story. It was a mirror of the kind of work the Magic put in to take a two-point halftime lead and the feeling that the Magic were in control.
Effort matters. And nowhere was that more evident than in the rebounding numbers in the second half as Indiana erased the deficit and then ran past the Magic for a 93-78 win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Monday.
Indiana got absolutely worked on the offensive glass, but came out in the second half and turned the tables. The Pacers found the energy and blew the doors open in a 30-13 quarter, forcing Magic turnovers and getting out on the break and attacking the basket and the offensive glass. After getting thoroughly outworked and outrebounded in the first half, Indiana won the boards 46-38 and held a 15-13 edge on offensive rebounds. Orlando had 12 offensive rebounds in the first half, buoying the team as it continued to struggle to get good looks.
Certainly Orlando is OK with a loss if it comes on the heels of a good effort. Stan Van Gundy and the Magic know how small the margin for error is in these games.
The Magic could not get their offense moving to keep up.
After scoring only 30 points in the second half of Game One, the Magic scored only 34 in the second half of Game Two. The Pacers had 30 in the third quarter alone -- the Magic split the fourth quarter 21-21. The 17 points Orlando spotted Indiana in the third quarter was more than the difference.
A lot of things changed for the Magic in that second half.
Indiana started to feel energy and momentum as Orlando missed some open shots and could not get to the basket the same way the team did in the first half. The offense did not ever re-establish its rhythm or flow and the team was scrambling to get a decent look.
After turning the ball over just six times in the first half, Orlando turned it over 10 times in the second half. Indiana turned those into 22 fast break points. this became especially troubling when Orlando would turn the ball over at the top of the key or on the perimeter. That enabled Leandro Barbosa, Danny Granger and George Hill to get out and get easy buckets.
And certainly giving up lots of second chance opportunities does not help matters for a team that is struggling to score once again -- it was another game shooting below 40 percent from the floor -- and does not have a lot of depth to draw in.
It seems like an excuse, but after dominating and attacking so much in the first half, Glen Davis seemed to epitomize a player who had ran out of gas.
Davis was superb in the first half, drawing fouls on Roy Hibbert and staying active on the offensive glass. Most of his 18 points, 10 rebounds and 7 offensive rebounds came in the first half. In the second half Davis did not have the same aggression as the defense forced him into more jump-shooting situations and denied him any opportunity to work around the rim.
The Pacers also made him work a bit more defensively. Playing a team-high 38 minutes just seemed to be asking too much of Davis.
Similarly, Orlando just could not get into the paint and could not create the inside-out game that made the first half so strong.
Jameer Nelson was getting wherever he wanted, setting up players around the perimeter and pulling the defense apart -- he finished with only three assists, but certainly had more hockey assists. He could not get himself going in the second half either when he looked to get his own offensive game going. Nelson scored only 12 points and shot 4 for 13.
Simply, Orlando's offense needs to do a better job finding its rhythm and fluidity to find success in this series. And most importantly, the Magic have to play with more energy. They cannot allow Indiana to run past them and fly to the rim, building momentum and confidence with each big energy play.
In Game Two, Orlando saw just how small its margin for error is. The Magic can win games in this series. It did not appear that Game One was some fluke. The question is: can Orlando do enough to win this series? Being sure to play with more energy and continue to fight and claw will be the only way to do that. There is simply no way for the Magic to even have a chance if they are not winning that battle.