Magic Win Another Thriller, Top Pacers
By John Denton
Feb. 9, 2014
ORLANDO – Two nights removed from toppling the Western Conference leader in fantastic fashion, the Orlando Magic pulled off a sequel for the ages against the leaders from the East that was again shocking to the senses.
Two games, two of the most impressive wins not only in this Magic season, but in the NBA as a whole.
Down 17 points in the second half, just as they were two nights earlier in the shocking upset of Oklahoma City, Orlando rode the emotional wave provided rookie Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris to flip the script on the Indiana Pacers. Orlando used great teamwork and defensive intensity to put together a game-turning 24-7 in the fourth quarter and it held on in the tense moments for a stunning 93-92 defeat of the Pacers.
Oladipo, Orlando’s prized No. 2 pick from last spring, was a fourth-quarter star for a second straight game. He scored 13 points in the fourth quarter to help the Magic (16-37) go from down 74-64 at the start of the fourth quarter to up 88-81 with 5:24 to play.
The Amway Center crowd roared throughout the stunning turnaround in the fourth quarter. And it throbbed with emotion as the final horn sounded and Vucevic flung the ball high into the air. Orlando dodged a bullet in the final seconds when an in-bounds play went awry and Indiana star forward Paul George launched a runner in the final seconds.
The Magic have now won five straight at the Amway Center and six of the last seven games at home. Orlando is back at home on Wednesday against Memphis.
The Pacers (39-11) came into the game having won four in a row and seven of the past 10 games, but they were no match for the surging Magic in the fourth quarter. The Magic were in all three games through three quarters, but couldn’t continue to keep pace in the fourth against the Pacers’ highly acclaimed defense. The Pacers won 97-87 on Opening Night and 98-79 last week in snowy Indianapolis.
Oladipo made eight of 18 shots and scored 23 points. Vucevic carried the Magic for long stretches of the third quarter and finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds. And Harris – the hero of Friday night – scored 13 points.
The Magic were coming off a thrilling 103-102 defeat of the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday on Tobias Harris’ dunk just before the buzzer. The Thunder came into that game as the NBA’s only 40-game winner, but they came unglued in the fourth quarter against the rapidly improving Magic.
The Magic were attempting to win their fifth straight home game – something that hasn’t been done since Jan.-Feb. of 2011 when they won eight in a row at the Amway Center.
Orlando rallied back from a 14-point halftime deficit on Friday against Oklahoma City and they tried to do the same thing on Sunday against the powerful Pacers. But Indiana frustrated Orlando in the halfcourt with its defense and answered every Magic surge to keep the lead at 10 going into the fourth quarter.
Orlando missed its last eight shots of the first half and the first three of the second half, allowing the Pacers to push their lead to as much as 17 points in the third quarter. Vucevic did what he could to keep Orlando close, contributing nine points and seven rebounds in the third quarter alone.
Indiana entered the game first in the NBA in points allowed per game (90.7) and field goal percentage allowed (41.4) and it started flexing its defensive muscle late in the first half. Unable to get inside or free for jumpers, Orlando missed its final eight shots of the second quarter and trailed 52-43 at the break.
Afflalo had a stellar first half in Indiana on Monday, torching the Pacers for 18 points in the first 24 minutes. But the Pacers locked down on him in that second half and it carried over to Sunday as Afflalo missed five of his first six shots against George’s long-armed defense.
Vucevic and Nelson had strong starts, but they combined for just one basket in the second quarter. Vucevic had 10 points and four rebounds in the opening two quarters and continued to outplay Roy Hibbert. Nelson, who celebrated his 32nd birthday on Sunday, made his first eight points and two 3-pointers.
Orlando saw an impressive start in which it grabbed an early 28-22 lead wither away when Indiana scored the final nine points of the first period and string together an 18-5 spurt.