Phew. The Indiana Pacers, up 80-63 in the fourth quarter, looked like they were on their way to another easy victory against the Orlando Magic in their first round series. But full credit to the Magic, who scratched and clawed and rode the momentum of the home crowd to get right back into this one and almost pulling out the victory before heading to overtime, where the Pacers eventually prevailed, 101-99, on a pair of George Hill free throws.
Yes, the same George Hill that almost lose a game for the Pacers late in the regular season by missing 3 of 4 free throws, was huge down the stretch, scoring the Pacers’ final 6 points of the game — 4 big free throws wrapped around a baseline floater — to effectively ice it.
In all, it was another team effort. David West was best with 26 points and 12 rebounds. Roy Hibbert was a beast with 14, 11 and 3 blocks, though he could have done more. Granger had 21 points and 7 rebounds. Darren Collison was huge off the bench with 11 points and 9 assists in just 18 minutes.
So now the Pacers are up 3-1 and can close out the series against the Magic in game 5 back in Indiana. A lot of people may have predicted that the Pacers would be up 3-1, but I think few would have guessed that they’d lose game 1 at home and win both games in Orlando. Regardless, it’s a good position to be in.
As for this game, I guess you could look at it in two ways. The first is that the Pacers showed they’re not mentally ready for the Miami Heat in the second round. The second is that the Pacers have taken a big step forward in holding on and grinding out the victory — after losing game 1 in a similar collapse. I guess we’ll have to see if they can close out the series first.