For the second time in as many nights, the Indiana Pacers used a big third quarter to fuel them to their fourth straight victory, topping the Orlando Magic 105-97 to wrap up their Florida road trip.
The Pacers led for much of the first half, but found themselves in a hole at halftime after surrendering an 11-0 run to close the second quarter. The game swung back in Indiana’s favor in the third, with them using a 20-5 run to go up 78-70. The run was impressive not only on its own, but in how they kept the Magic at bay despite missing numerous opportunities themselves to blow the game wide open.
Indiana shot just 41.6% on the night, their second worst shooting performance of the season, but weren’t deterred by their misses, putting in a fantastic defensive effort to not only force Orlando misses, but to turn the Magic over. Indiana had 17 steals in the game, leading to 26 points, helping them to overcome a deficit from beyond the arc.
Of course, it always helps to hit shots too, and the Pacers were timely in the fourth quarter thanks in large part to Bojan Bogadnovic, who had a stellar encore to his 26-point effort against Miami with another 26-point night in Orlando. Bogdanovic had 24 second half points, hitting all five of his three pointers after the break.
Those threes were not just useful, but were crucial as well. The Pacers were just 8-20 from beyond the arc, 3-13 without Bogdanovic’s contributions. It was a rough go from just about every portion of the floor for Indiana, so Bogdanovic’s night was indispensable, no more than in the final minute with Orlando threatening late.
Despite a late double figure lead, the Magic cut the lead to 98-95 with 49 seconds left on an 11-3 run. On the next possession, the Pacers would find Bogdanovic, putting in the dagger three to secure the win for the Pacers.
Bogdanovic provided some much needed shooting for the Pacers on a night when they simply didn’t have any reliable output from the floor. Bogdanovic finished 9-15 and his positive play continues to be one of the biggest x-factors for Indiana. Only Thaddeus Young joined Bogdanovic in shooting over 50%, scoring 17 points on 8-15 shooting.
Though while the shooting wasn’t there for the Pacers, the effort made up for it in spades. It was obvious at times that the team was spent; each trip to the floor seemed to take a little longer to get up from, but it never got in the way of their fight. No one left it on the floor more tonight than Victor Oladipo.
Oladipo finished with a game high 29 points in front of his former home crowd, giving 100% on every play to boost the Pacers to the victory. As mentioned earlier, the Pacers forced 17 steals on the Magic, seven of those came from Oladipo, who also had nine rebounds and five assists.
Oladipo’s leading by example, leading by effort brought the best effort out of everyone else. Darren Collison was just 2-11 from the floor, but had eight assists, six rebounds, and three steals. Myles Turner shot 4-11, but fought through a rolled ankle to pull in five boards and a pair of blocks. Cory Joseph had three assist and back-to-back steals while Lance Stephenson had just three points, but 10 rebounds and six assists.
The Pacers are now 10-8 after winning their fourth straight game. After the game, Jeremiah Johnson asked Oladipo if he was satisfied with the start given the road heavy schedule. Oladipo, unsurprisingly, scoffed at the idea at being satisfied, but Jeremiah wasn’t wrong in implying this was a very impressive start given what the Pacers have faced this season. It wasn’t until January 7 that Indiana finally moved two games above .500 last season, it was 11 days later before they got their sixth road win.
Even looking at last year’s team, it’s very easy to assume they would’ve packed up shop after allowing an 11-0 run to close the half. On the second night of a back-to-back on the road, third game in four nights and trailing, the kind of effort the Pacers had in the second half seemed like the least likely outcome, which is what makes wins like this so refreshing.
The Pacers played not like they were on the second night of a back-to-back, but that they had three days to recover from it. Tired as they clearly looked, that fatigue didn’t become an excuse, and they’ll get to sit on a nice winning streak heading into Thanksgiving.
Indiana will take the court at home on Friday against the Toronto Raptors. It will begin a home heavy portion of their schedule, hosting 17 of their next 24 games. Whatever the Pacers are going to be on the year, this second quarter of games is going to be a big indicator of that, and it will give fans plenty of opportunities to see this team continue to grow.