Both the Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers are playing without any true superstars in their first-round series of the NBA playoffs, which may underscore the present 1-1 tie between the two teams.
The Magic lost its superstar center Dwight Howard for the season after back surgery. The Pacers never had someone like Howard to begin with, but if one person had to be the superstar, at least as far as the first two games of the series thus far, it would perhaps be forward David West, who has tallied 37 points and 20 rebounds.
They don't have an answer for David West in this series, said Pacers forward Danny Granger. We knew our bigs would be a huge advantage for us. We've just been riding that. When David gets going, it's hard to stop him.
West hasn't been in the playoffs since 2009 with the New Orleans Hornets, but coach Frank Vogel said West's experience is a huge factor in his play up until now. Granger also said that the team's effort in the paint starts with how West is playing.
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The paint is where the Pacers have dominated the Magic, too, despite their 81-77 Game 1 loss. In Game 1, Indiana outscored Orlando 36-26 in the paint with center Roy Hibbert recording nine blocks on the defensive end. In Game 2, which the Pacers won 93-78 largely thanks to a 30-13 third-quarter rout, they outscored them 50-28 in the paint, blocked 11 shots and stole the ball seven times.
However, defending the three-point shot has been tough for the Pacers in both games. Although they did better at it in Game 2 by holding the Magic to just eight for 25 (32 percent) from beyond the arc, the Magic's modus operandi will most likely be the same for Game 3, and throughout the rest of the series, which can give the Pacers a good chance to cut the percentage down even further.
Indiana's frontcourt of West, Granger and Hibbert has the capabilities to thwart the Magic's effort closer to the basket because of size advantage. As a result, guards Paul George and George Hill will have to increase the tenacity of their perimeter defense against happy Magic shooters like J.J. Redick and Jason Richardson.
Orlando's frontcourt of Glen Davis, Ryan Anderson and Hedo Turkoglu will have their work cut out for them. Granger held Turkoglu to just 10 points, two assists and one rebound in Game 2; Anderson, who the Magic are depending on to score points with Howard out, went just 3 for 9 from the field with 11 points; and Davis, who has scored 34 points and grabbed 23 rebounds in the first two games, may not be able to replicate his offensive production and contain David West at the same time down the stretch.
Game 3 between the Magic and Pacers will begin at 7:30 p.m. ET at the Amway Center on NBA TV. A live stream can be watched here.
PREDICTION: The Pacers blew Game 1 in the fourth quarter and bounced back in Game 2. The fact remains that they are bigger and stronger than the Magic. Guard Paul George, Hibbert, West and Granger are those aforementioned bigger, stronger and skilled enough players on both ends of the floor not to let up in Game 3. The Pacers take Game 3 104-95.