Magic suffocate Pacers down stretch

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 28, 2012
Don't count the Orlando Magic out just yet. Jason Richardson and Jameer Nelson scored 17 points apiece to help sixth-seeded Orlando, playing without Dwight Howard, surprise the third-seeded Indiana Pacers 81-77 in Game 1 of the first-round Eastern Conference playoff series on Saturday night. Howard, the Magic's leading scorer and the league's top rebounder, will miss the rest of the season after having back surgery. The Magic played defense Howard would have been proud of down the stretch, overcoming a seven-point deficit by holding the Pacers scoreless for the final 4:05. David West scored 19 points, Danny Granger added 17 and Roy Hibbert had eight points, 13 rebounds and nine blocks for the Pacers. Granger traveled with 7.5 seconds left and the Pacers trailing by three. Game 2 will be Monday night in Indianapolis. Orlando took a 68-67 lead on a dunk by Earl Clark with 9:41 remaining, but the Pacers held the Magic scoreless for nearly five minutes to take a 75-68 lead. A 3-pointer by Richardson cut Indiana's lead to 77-75. The Pacers missed 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions, and Granger missed two free throws with 1:14 left. Richardson made another 3-pointer to give the Magic a 78-77 lead with 1:04 to play. Granger missed in close, and Orlando snagged the rebound. Nelson was fouled and made two free throws with 24.5 seconds left to take an 80-77 lead. Darren Collison missed a shot from near the free throw line, and Orlando rebounded. Clark missed two free throws with 12.1 seconds remaining, giving Indiana one more chance. Indiana barely got the ball inbounds, then Granger traveled. Indiana coach Frank Vogel expected Orlando's offensive style, which focuses on spacing the floor and shooting 3-pointers, to present a challenge. Orlando led the league in 3-pointers made and attempted during the regular season and was third in percentage (.375). He was right. Orlando fell behind by 10 in the first quarter before rallying in the second. A 3-pointer by Richardson gave Orlando a 43-40 lead, and the Magic increased that lead to 49-42 on a bucket by Nelson. The Magic led 51-44 at halftime, taking the air out of a crowd that showed up with high expectations. The Pacers made numerous atypical mistakes; among them, shooting just 9 for 15 from the free throw line. Indiana opened the second half on an 8-2 run that included a 3-pointer and a fadeaway by Granger. George Hill was fouled on a 3-pointer, and he made all three free throws to finally give Indiana a 58-57 edge and bring the crowd back into the game. Ryan Anderson's 3-pointer in the final minute of the quarter, his first of the game, gave the Magic a 64-63 lead at the end of period. Indiana held Orlando to 13 points on 6-for-19 shooting in the period, but couldn't support its good defense with offensive production in the fourth. Notes: Indiana G Leandro Barbosa, who was nursing a sprained left ankle, finished with three points in 20 minutes. ... Orlando forward Hedo Turkoglu wore a mask during the game. ... Vogel was named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for April. ... Collison, who recently lost his starting job, played most of the fourth quarter ... Orlando shot 33 percent in the first quarter. ... Magic assistant Patrick Ewing had a walking boot on his left foot because of an infection.
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