Minus Dwight Howard, the Magic owned the underdog tag and successfully stole home-court advantage with a win in Game 1. Then the Pacers were able to brush off a woeful finish in that loss, regroup, and use all their personnel advantages down the stretch to blow past the Magic in Game 2 on Monday.
The question now is who has established their early postseason identity more as the series shifts to Orlando on Wednesday for Game 3?
''Obviously we want to go back home and play off the momentum of the crowd and just play better than we did (Monday),'' Magic forward Ryan Anderson said after the 93-78 Game 2 loss. ''We know that we can play better than this and play harder than this.''
While Anderson and the Magic are certainly hoping to get an energy boost from an Amway Center crowd still reeling after last season's first-round exit, conditioning will certainly be a factor for both teams with just one day to rest.
Indiana trailed at the half for the second straight game before getting that boost in the second half that coach Frank Vogel said would be a necessity in this series. It came at a cost, though, with Pacers starters Danny Granger and David West both logging over 40 minutes. They averaged 33 and 29 minutes per game, respectively, during the regular season.
Both teams took it easy Tuesday, with the Magic taking the day off and the Pacers holding only a light practice in Indianapolis before boarding a plane to Florida.
After five games against each other this season, there doesn't seem to be a lot of mystery left to uncover.
The strategy is the same as it was when the series began: The Magic need to shoot the ball well and run the floor to negate the Pacers' size advantage. Meanwhile, Indiana wants to resist the urge to get in a shootout with Orlando, while pounding the ball inside and running the Magic off the 3-point stripe.
Game 2 was mission accomplished for the Pacers, holding the Magic to just 8 for 25 from beyond the arc, and frustrating them inside with a 50-28 edge in points in the paint. Indiana also outrebounded Orlando 46-38.
''It's all about who wants it more,'' Pacers guard Paul George said. ''We look at it as a 50-50 ball and the man that wants that ball more is going to go after and go get it. We wanted to make sure we got as many 50-50 balls as we can.''
Granger had 18 points, but struggled to shoot the ball, going 7 for 21 from the field and just 1 for 10 from 3. The bigger numbers, though, were what he did defending Orlando's Hedo Turkoglu. He was held to just 10 points, two assists and one rebound.
Anderson, who the Magic are depending on to produce offensively with Howard out for the season following back surgery, went just 3 for 9 from the field. It followed an equally quiet five-point effort in Game 1 for the candidate for the NBA's most improved player award.
Granger said their effort underneath starts with how West is playing.
''They don't have an answer for David West in this series,'' Granger said. ''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 New Orleans, but Vogel said West's experience is a huge factor in his play to this point. For his career West is averaging 16 points and seven rebounds in the postseason.
''He's providing our team with the necessary swagger to get a playoff win,'' Vogel said. ''He's just dialed in. He is a playoff-tested veteran.''
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said it's not so much the players who are scoring the Pacers' points, but how they are doing it.
''We can't give up 22 fast-break points, 25 second-chance points and have 16 turnovers,'' he said. ''I mean, it gets back to very basic things and we're not going to have a chance to win if we do that.''
The promising news in the Magic closing the rebounding and second-chance scoring gap is that with 18 points and 10 rebounds, Glen ''Big Baby'' Davis maintained his consistency in Game 2 playing as an undersized center.
New roles or situation aside, Davis said there continues to be a no-excuse mentality throughout the Magic locker room.
''It's the playoffs, we got to go. We have to find it and regroup,'' Davis said. ''We're going home and we're just tired...I think we have to find our niche out there and get guys the ball at the right time.''
Reach Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower
AP Sports Writer Cliff Brunt in Indianapolis contributed to this report.
- Orlando Magic
- Indiana Pacers
- David West