Lifeless Pacers fall at home to Magic
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Orlando Magic have suddenly figured out the trick to winning.
Shoot well, defend better, share the ball and stay energized. On Thursday, the plan worked again.
Evan Fournier scored 25 points and Nikola Vucevic added 24 after returning from a 13-game absence, leading the Magic past the Pacers 114-94 — for their first victory at Indiana in more than four years.
“You look like an elite team,” coach Scott Skiles said of what happens when teams bring positive energy to the court. “There’s always an ebb and flow to the season and sometimes we look really good for a few games and then we don’t. The point you want to get to is that you’re the same (team) every day.”
Whatever changed, Orlando looks much more competitive after being eliminated from the playoff chase.
Since snapping a six-game losing streak, it has won three straight, the last two impressively.
Two nights after scoring 139 points and shooting 61.5 percent from the field, both season highs, the Magic shot 53.3 percent including 14 of 19 in the third quarter and beat the Pacers on their home court for the first time since Feb. 4, 2012. Fournier and Vucevic were a combined 22 of 29 from the field.
“We are playing with a lot of confidence right now, but it’s a little too late,” Fournier said. “Tonight, it was all about defense. We held that team to 94 points, that’s pretty good.”
The Pacers were not good, though.
While Paul George finished with 27 points and eight rebounds, and Lavoy Allen had 12 points and 11 rebounds, Indiana never led over the final 41:50 and only tied the score twice.
And that came on a night the Pacers couldn’t afford to lose after sliding into the final playoff spot in the East. This loss leaves the Pacers one game behind seventh-place Detroit and just one game ahead of the ninth-place Bulls, who won 103-100 at Houston on Thursday.
“It is in our hands and we have to win games against teams like Orlando,” George said. “We can’t have losses like these.”
They didn’t have a choice Thursday.
The Magic took control with a 7-0 second-quarter run that made it 53-41. Indiana rallied to tie the score at 62 early in the third, but Victor Oladipo broke the tie with a 3-pointer that sent Orlando on a 14-5 run to make it 76-67 with 3:56 to go.
Orlando spent the rest of the game pulling away.