For the second consecutive game, the Pacers’ second unit became the story.
After scoring a season-high 69 bench points against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Indiana’s second unit finished with 58 tonight. The point parade led the Blue & Gold (24-27) to a 111-106 victory over the Orlando Magic (17-35) inside Amway Center.
“We’re just playing free out there,” said Aaron Holiday, who finished with a team-high 20 points, including a career-high six made 3-point shots. “Most of the time, we’re getting up and down the court. Me and Doug (McDermott) love getting up and down the court. And obviously, (having) a point guard like T.J. McConnell, who finds you in your pocket, makes the game easy.”
McDermott added 19, finding most of his success cutting to the paint tonight. The forward has finished in double figures in 15 of his last 16 appearances. McConnell finished with eight points and a game-high nine assists.
“I think at times I’m respected as a shooter,” he said of his increased paint presence. “I just feel like I could get some easy cuts just because of how they defend me at times.”
Not to be outdone, starters Domantas Sabonis (16) and Edmond Sumner (12) also finished in double figures. The All-Star also hauled in 15 rebounds for his 34th double-double of the season.
Sumner provided the majority of the Blue & Gold’s early offense, scoring eight of Indiana’s first 11 points in a variety of ways. The Xavier product hit 3-of-3 from the charity stripe, drilled a triple, and used his speed to bank in a cutting layup by the 7:11 mark of the frame.
Later, the Blue & Gold’s reserves came on for their first shift, helping earn a slim lead. Trailing 17-16 with 4:20 to go, McDermott knocked in seven quick points over 56 seconds to give Indiana a 23-20 lead at the 3:26 mark.
Down the stretch, the frame continued to be a back-and-forth affair. Neither team stretched the lead past a single possession. However, the youngest Holiday did earn the last laugh.
With 2.1 seconds left, Aaron Holiday received an inbound pass from T.J. McConnell. Holiday squared up his defender and launched a 38-footer before the buzzer sounded. The ball banked high off the glass and in, giving Indiana a 33-30 edge heading into the second.
McDermott and the Pacers’ second unit withstood a 10-point barrage from NBA veteran Terrence Ross. The last familiar member of the Magic remaining after the trade deadline just could not miss. But, the squad nearly matched him shot-for-shot. Eventually, Orlando grabbed a 42-41 lead on R.J. Hampton’s step-back jumper with 8:21 to go.
However, the Pacers didn’t back down. Caris LeVert’s and-one pickup ignited a 16-5 Indiana run over the next 3:40. Aaron Holiday added two treys during the run, including one from the right side that pushed the Pacers ahead 57-47 with 4:41 remaining.
Justin Holiday’s three from the left wing then broke a 2:42 scoreless span for both teams and extended the Blue & Gold’s lead to 13 with 1:59 to go. The group managed to stretch the lead as high as 15 down the stretch before a pair of free throws from Mo Bamba with 1.7 seconds trimmed it to 64-51 before the break. Indiana shot 23-of-47 (48.9 percent) from the field in the first half, including 8-of-16 from deep. McDermott and Holiday had a combined 27 points.
After scoring just four points in the first half, Malcolm Brogdon broke the double-figure mark by notching six of the first 11 Pacers points of the third. A pair of free throws from the guard at the 8:46 mark stretched the Blue & Gold’s lead to 72-57.
However, the comfortable lead quickly shrunk to five, as Indiana went ice-cold. Magic muscled their way to a 10-0 run, earning several trips to the free-throw line. McDermott’s cutting layup at the 4:32 mark finally stopped the run and pushed the Pacers’ lead to 74-67.
But, Orlando inched its way even closer to the lead as rookie Cole Anthony’s layup banked in with 2:43 to go. Anthony was recently sidelined for 25 games after fracturing a rib. Later, Orlando’s other highly-touted rookie, Chuma Okeke, earned a layup to cut the Pacers’ lead to 78-76 with 59.0 left.
However, the bench once again helped Indiana end on a high note. With 50.3 seconds showing, Goga Bitadze drilled a three from the top of the key. After Anthony recorded two free throws on the other end, McConnell finished the period with a buzzer-beating, running floater in the paint. The crafty shot pushed Indiana’s lead to 83-78 heading into the fourth.
Aaron Holiday and McDermott then teamed up to stretch the Blue & Gold’s lead to 92-82 early in the fourth. Holiday started with a three from the right wing. After Ross hit 2-of-3 from the stripe, McDermott notched four of a 6-0 Indiana spree, including a tough right-handed layup from underneath the backboard.
From there, the Pacers pulled away once more, extending the lead to 99-84 behind McConnell’s signature turnaround jumper and a pair of free throws from Jeremy Lamb. But, six quick Magic points trimmed the lead back to single digits with 6:18 remaining.
However, the Blue & Gold kept the hosts at bay over the next several minutes. Four from LeVert helped keep a 106-96 lead and pushed him into double figures on the night. But, Orlando threatened once more.
After a pair of Sabonis free throws gave Indiana a 108-98 lead, the Magic scored six straight, including two high-flying dunks from Ross, to cut the lead to 108-104 with 54.1 seconds remaining. After both sides came up empty, Brogdon connected on 1-of-2 free throws to push the lead to five with 17.3 seconds to go. With Orlando forced to foul, McConnell polished off the bench’s solid night. The underestimated guard iced the game at the line with two perfect free throws. Indiana travels to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies on Sunday.
Inside The Numbers
Indiana improves to 5-0 this season when the bench scores 50 points or more.
The Pacers held their own on the glass, finishing just one board shy of tying Orlando. (50-49)
In his first game back from nursing a sore right hip, Malcolm Brogdon finished with 11 points, four rebounds, and four assists.
You Can Quote Me On That
“I liked the communication throughout. It was very good to have Malcolm (Brogdon) and Domas (Sabonis) back. And again, the bench – the bench put together a pretty good string of shots there during that game. Aaron Holiday and Doug (McDermott) made some shots once we got to run out.” – Bjorkgren on what stood out tonight
“I think Aaron (Holiday) is just a guy that – no matter what – he didn’t play a ton earlier in the year. He’s had some ups and downs. But, one thing about Aaron is that he’s going to be in the gym right away. He’s always getting extra shots up. He’s coming in on off days. He doesn’t really show any frustration. He doesn’t say a word” – McDermott on Aaron Holiday
“It was tough. Obviously, you want to play. I know I can help my team win. So, obviously I’m trying to get out there and do that. But, it wasn’t my opportunity at the time. So, I just try to stay as ready as I can and just continue to work.” – Aaron Holiday on sitting on the sidelines earlier this season
Stat Of The Night
Aaron Holiday led the team in scoring for the second consecutive game.
- The Pacers have won 24 of the last 29 matchups against Orlando. They have an 11-2 road record during that span.
- Myles Turner was sidelined for the second straight game due to a sprained left ankle.
- With the win, Indiana improves its record on the road to 15-12 this season.