The Indiana Pacers were so worried about slowing Dwight Howard that they failed to guard Orlando on the perimeter.
The result was a three-point shooting exhibition unlike any Indiana has seen. The Magic made 16 three-pointers, the most ever by a Pacers opponent, in a 111-96 win on Wednesday night.
Howard, who had 19 points and 16 rebounds, set the tone by dunking on Indiana’s 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert on Orlando’s first offensive possession. Once Howard established himself, Orlando’s outside shooters went to work. The Magic made seven three-pointers in the second quarter to take control.
”We had to play inside-out, and that’s when we have a lot of success,” Howard said.
Ryan Anderson made three three-pointers in a four-minute span to turn a 26-24 lead into a 47-30 advantage for the Magic.
”We tried doing our assignments that coach taught us, but we let some threes get away from us,” Indiana point guard Darren Collison said. ”Ryan Anderson got hot for a little bit. I think he opened the game up for them.”
Jason Richardson had 19 points and nine rebounds, Hedo Turkoglu scored 18 points and Anderson added 14 for the Magic, who shot 50 percent from the field. Seven Orlando players made at least one three-pointer.
”They absolutely had their way from the three-point line,” Indiana coach Jim O’Brien said. ”We had lapses on the perimeter that we shouldn’t have. Sometimes, you have games where you are not focused on the little things, and that’s what happened tonight.”
Danny Granger scored 27 points for the Pacers, but he shot 6 for 19 from the field.
"We defended Danny Granger very, very well,” Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. ”I thought we made it tough for him to make shots. ”
Collison added 21 points for Indiana, which lost its sixth straight.
”We’ve just got to stay with it,” Collison said. ”Every game, we’re playing hard. We’re right in it. We’ve just got to stay focused and keep that faith alive.”
Indiana made just 8 of 30 three-pointers. The Pacers matched their worst home loss of the season, a 15-point defeat Dec. 15 against the Lakers.
Indiana opened the second half with a three-pointer by Mike Dunleavy, but the Magic regained momentum with an alley-oop pass from Turkoglu to Howard for a power jam that gave the Magic a 69-53 lead. Orlando stretched its lead to 23 midway through the quarter and led 86-72 at the end of the period.
Indiana started the fourth quarter with a three-pointer by Granger, sparking a 7-0 run that cut Orlando’s lead to 86-79.
Turkoglu stopped the run with a three-point play that pushed the Magic’s lead back to 10 with 8:39 to play. A three-pointer by Jameer Nelson gave Orlando a 94-79 lead and caused the Pacers to call a timeout.
Indiana closed within 11, but Richardson made two three-pointers to extend Orlando’s lead to 103-86.
”We played a very good first half, we played a very good first eight minutes of the third quarter and then I think we struggled a little bit,” Van Gundy said. ”We turned it over a couple times, got stripped, missed some free throws, couldn’t get the ball in the basket, let up a little bit defensively.”
The Pacers have improved offensively but struggled defensively during their losing streak. Granger said a series of lineup changes has affected their defensive continuity.
”Defense really is a thing where you’ve got to know rotations, you’ve got to know assignments, you’ve got to know coverages,” Granger said. ”More often than not, we’re missing our assignments, we’re missing coverages.”
The shine is coming off the Pacers’ encouraging start to the season.
”We’re sliding right now, and if we don’t stop it soon, we’ll be out of the playoff mix,” Granger said. ”It’s do or die right now.”
NOTES: The Pacers observed a moment of silence for Indianapolis metro police officer David Moore, who died Wednesday after being shot Sunday during a traffic stop. … Orlando’s Gilbert Arenas drained 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter to give Magic 24-21 lead. … The Magic waived point guard Jason Williams on Wednesday. He appeared in just 16 games this season and averaged 2.1 points and 1.5 assists. … Indiana G Brandon Rush sprained his left ankle in the third quarter and did not return.