Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 5/4/12
After Thursday's practice session, Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy said he was considering lineup changes for Saturdays Game 4 against the Indiana Pacers. No wonder. The coach is do doubt looking for answers as he looks at numbers that tell a striking story. In the first three games of the best-of-seven series, the Pacers starting five have outplayed the Magic starters. Badly. Heres how the numbers look: Indianas starting five, on the court together, have an offensive efficiency rating of 121.2, meaning, the Pacers are scoring an incredible 121 points per 100 possessions. Pacer starters have a defensive efficiency rating of 83.9, which means they are giving up just 84 points per 100 possessions against the Magic. Subtract the defensive rating from the offensive rating, and you have a net efficiency rating for Indianas starting lineup at a whopping 37.4. (By comparison, the Miami Heats starting five this season had a net efficiency rating of 10.9, among the highest in the league) Conversely, the Magics starting five, while playing together during the series, have a net efficiency rating of -32.2. As a result, the Pacers have jumped out to big leads in the first quarter of all three games, and even more troubling, they have outscored the Magic by an incredible 81-43 in third quarters. Orlando, we have a problem. One of several things has to happen for the Magic to win Saturday and even up the series 2-2. First of all, starters Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Ryan Anderson and Glen Davis must all raise their game. But one player in particular holds the key: Nelson. As the point guard, Nelson sets the tone for the team. The Magic, especially since losing Dwight Howard to injury, rely on their point guard to lead the way. When Nelson is in attack mode, coming hard off of pick-and-rolls, looking for opportunities to score first, then set up his teammates, he and the Magic are their best. Its no coincidence that in their only playoff victory (Game 1), Nelson had his best game of the series (17 points, 9 assists, 15 field goal attempts). The other option for the Magic is for Van Gundy to make those lineup changes he talked about on Thursday. So far, Orlandos most effective players in the series have been reserves J.J. Redick, Quentin Richardson and Earl Clark. Redick seems to be the one player who can get good shots in the half-court offense and get to the basket. His quick and decisive movements, both with and without the ball, are key for the Magic offense, which tends to bog down. Richardson is big enough and strong enough to defend Indianas long wing players, Danny Granger and Paul George. Clarks length and athleticism match up well with the Pacers big inside duo of David West and Roy Hibbert. One or all of these players could be inserted into the starting lineup for Saturdays game, but if not, look for Van Gundy to have a short hook on struggling starters. There is still time to turn things around, but falling behind 3-1 would put the Magic in a desperate situation. NOTES: Ryan Anderson, who has blossomed since becoming a starter this season, was announced as the winner of the 2011-12 Kia NBA Most Improved Player Award on Friday. Anderson, who set career marks with 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game this year, received 33 of 121 first-place votes. He is the fifth Orlando player to win the award, joinging Hedo Turkoglu (2007-08), Tracy McGrady (2000-01), Darrell Armstrong (1998-99) and Scott Skiles (1990-91).
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