The Indiana Pacers survived.
After trailing for almost 45 minutes, the Pacers took a late lead against the Orlando Magic and appeared to put the game in their control, but still needed to hold on late when an inability to pull in a rebound set the Magic up for a game winning three in the closing seconds.
Indiana’s defense was a major problem in the first half again, allowing a second straight 70-point first half, with Orlando dominating the offensive glass and using it to build a 21-point lead in the second quarter. The Magic had nine offensive boards in the first half, leading to 14 second chance points.
The Pacers closed the half on a high note with a Darren Collison three, kicking off a 21-8 run to start the third to push the Pacers to within seven. At this point, Indiana’s comeback attempts were stalled due to timely shooting from the Magic. The Magic hit just eight threes on the night, but would hit three crippling threes over the course of the next 12 minutes that would exemplify the kind of night the Pacers were facing; all three pushed a single digit deficit back to double figures.
Trailing 106-96 halfway through the fourth, the Pacers finally broke through thanks to the trio of Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, and Lance Stephenson. The three teamed up for a 15-0 run that would push the Pacers over the top for the first time, scoring the team’s final 24 points. Indiana went ahead by five, but surrendered four points to cut the lead to one with 22 seconds remaining.
Indiana forced a stop, eventually setting up Sabonis to split a trip at the free throw line. Aaron Gordon was fouled en route to a dunk, and upon missing the first free throw intentionally missed the second. Orlando corralled the rebound to give Jonathan Simmons a look at three that he fortunately missed, giving Indiana the 114-112 victory.
Oladipo would lead the way for the Pacers with 24 points, 16 of those coming in the second half. Oladipo shot 10-20 from the floor, including some big jumpers late, including six points in the final six minutes as the Pacers staged their comeback. Oladipo also had five rebounds and six assists, including one of Indiana’s nine steals.
The Pacers allowed the Magic to get out and run, with Orlando outscoring the Pacers 19-8 in fast break points, but those steals helped Indiana stage their comeback with 11 of their 18 points off turnovers coming in the second half. The Pacers also had to overcome foul trouble with Sabonis and Myles Turner each picking five fouls.
Sabonis would finish with 17 points and nine rebounds, nine points coming in the fourth quarter. Turner’s return to action was met with mixed results, finishing with four points and three boards. Al Jefferson provided some solid spot minutes with the foul trouble up front, scoring six.
Stephenson would lead the charge off the bench with a season high 21 points, also exploding in the fourth for nine points. Stephenson hit one of Indiana’s five three pointers on the night during the 15-0 run, cutting the lead to three. Stephenson also had six assists, second to Collison’s seven assists with 11 points.
Thaddeus Young was the third 20-point scorer for the Pacers, scoring 20 points, providing key buckets looked to weather their poor first half performance. While Oladipo, Sabonis, and Stephenson would put the Pacers over the top, Young’s 14 in the second and third were big in keeping the Pacers from falling behind even more than they already had.
The win became Indiana’s third of the year coming back from 20 points down, which shows the resilience this team has, but also shows their propensity for slow starts. The first half tonight was particularly bad from an effort standpoint. There was little the Pacers did that looked like they had any sort of fight or energy, looking every bit the team on the second night of a back-to-back, but they bailed themselves out to get a win they could ill afford to let slip away from them.
The Pacers wrap up a season sweep over the Magic and will continue their home stand on Monday when they face the Charlotte Hornets for the first time this season. The Hornets, like the Magic, have been one of the worst road teams in the East, putting the Pacers in another game where they need to take care of business to keep them pushing forward in the East, where they move back up to sixth with tonight’s win.