Pacers take 3-1 series lead
ORLANDO — The Indiana Pacers will vouch for the the old saying about no lead being safe in the NBA.
The Pacers, who had routed the Orlando Magic in Games 2 and 3 of their best-of-seven series. were seemingly on their way to a third straight blowout — up 19 with eight minutes to play in Game 4 — when things suddenly got tense.
“We might have let our guard down a little at that point,” Pacers forward David West said.
A little? The Pacers gave up the entire lead in regulation before pulling out a heart-stopping 101-99 win in overtime, thanks to a pair of free throws from guard George Hill with 2.2 seconds to go.
“It’s good to end up on the plus side of a game like that,” Indiana Coach Frank Vogel said. “George (Hill) made some big plays down the stretch and some critical free throws. That probably was the difference.”
The Pacers survived when Magic center Glen Davis, who had 24 points and 11 rebounds, missed a fallaway 12-footer that would have forced a second overtime. Indiana takes a 3-1 lead back home with a chance to wrap up the series Tuesday night.
“We learned a good lesson without having to lose a game,” said West, who scored 26 points and had 12 rebounds, both game highs. “We needed to have more resolve the last eight minutes of the game … but it didn’t come back and bite us in the butt so that’s a good thing.”
The Magic, obviously, didn’t see it the same way. After clawing back into the game behind Davis and Jason Richardson, who had 25 points, they actually had a chance to win in regulation.
J.J. Redick nailed a 3-pointer with 38.7 seconds to play tie the game at 89-all. Orlando forced Indiana into a shot-clock violation, giving the Magic 14 seconds to produce a game winner. Jameer Nelson, Orlando’s 6-foot point guard, got into the lane against 7-foot-2 Indiana center Roy Hibbert and created some space, but tried a fallaway jumper that wouldn’t go down.
“When you’re down 2-1 (in games) and 19 points, it’s pretty easy to cave in and we didn’t do that,” Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I give our guys a lot of credit for that and that’s why it’s so disappointing. We had some really, really bad stretches in the game, but we just kept coming and coming so you’re not going to hear a lot of bad things from me.”
Indiana led 82-63 with 8:16 left in the game, before the Magic roared to life behind Davis and Richardson. The two combined for 19 of the Magic’s 28 points in the fourth quarter, injecting life into teammates and a home crowd that both seemed ready to give up.
Richardson hit a 3-pointer with 2:16 to play to cut the deficit to 89-84, then Davis made a pair of free throws to make it a three-point game. Redick’s three-pointer tied the game at 89 and gave Nelson a chance to win it in regulation.
“If we played like we did in the fourth quarter, we’d be up in this series,” Davis said. “We were on every loose ball, every rebound, every defensive possession. … With our backs against the wall, we fought really, really hard. That’s playoff basketball.”
The Pacers jumped ahead 95-89 in overtime, but once again Orlando rallied back, tying it on a 3-pointer from Richardson and three-point play by Nelson. The teams traded baskets before Hill drove the lane and was hacked by Richardson as he started to go up for a shot.
GAME NOTES: Indiana outscored Orlando 27-17 in the third quarter, giving the Pacers a 108-60 edge in that period in the four games. … Eight teams have rallied from 3-1 deficits in NBA history to win the series. … If the Magic lose, it will be the first time a Stan Van Gundy-coached team won Game 1 but lost the series. … How close was the game? The Pacers and Magic both had 42 points in the paint and both scored six fastbreak points. Indiana held a 13-11 edge in second-chance points. … Do you believe in the plus-minus system for evaluating players? Magic C Glen Davis, arguably the team’s best player this series, has a team-worst minus-53 rating for the first three games. The best rating among Magic starters was a minus-9 from F Ryan Anderson.