danny granger

After years of losing and players finding trouble, the Indiana Pacers finally gave their fans something to really cheer about. Danny Granger scored 25 points to help the Pacers defeat the Orlando Magic 105-87 on Tuesday night and clinch their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series 4-1.

”I’m just so happy for our fans,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. ”They’ve endured a lot those years when we struggled. To finally see us come back and have a winning team again and somebody that has a chance to do something special this year. That’s what they deserve. Pacers basketball is back.”

The Pacers will play Miami or New York in the second round. Miami leads that series 3-1, and as the final minutes ticked away, fans began chanting, ”Beat the Heat.”

”It was electric,” Granger said. ”The crowd was crazy. They had a lot of momentum going. They pushed us in that fourth quarter.”

It was a tough series for Orlando, which played all five games without All-Star center Dwight Howard because of a back injury. They took the opener, then watched Indiana put together its first series win since 2005 and its first clincher on its home court since the first round of the 2000 playoffs. No player on Indiana’s roster had won a playoff series while playing for the Pacers…

Darren Collison scored 15 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter and George Hill added 15 points for the Pacers, who trailed by two at the end of the third quarter but outscored the Magic 36-16 in the final 12 minutes…

Jameer Nelson led Orlando with 27 points and made 5 of 8 3-pointers. Glen Davis, a thorn in Indiana’s side throughout the series, scored 15 but made just 6 of 17 shots. The Magic, who made just 5 of 16 shots in the fourth quarter, didn’t want to use Howard’s absence as an excuse.

– Reported by Cliff Brunt of the Associated Press