Playing without Victor Oladipo has become a regularity for the Indiana Pacers over the last 10 games, but they were issued a new challenge when they took the court without Domantas Sabonis, missing his second game of the year with food poisoning. On the surface, that feels like a problem, but in the only other game Sabonis missed, the Pacers won by 20.
Part of that was due to the play of Kyle O’Quinn, who had 16 points in the win. Not much changed from then to now, as it was O’Quinn again stepping in after sitting out the last four games. O’Quinn had a 12 point, 10 rebound double double off the bench for the Pacers, heating up in the third quarter to help them close out the win again.
The Pacers had actually done a good job throughout the game keeping the Orlando Magic at arms’ length. They used a 12-0 run in the first quarter and a 10-0 run in the second to help them build a 12-point halftime lead. Even without two of their best players, Indiana didn’t appear lost at all, clamping down on defense taking the Magic out of any semblance of rhythm to help them build the lead.
Early in the third however, Orlando took Myles Turner out of the game with his fourth foul after Turner extended the lead to 14 on a three. That opened things up a bit for the Magic, allowing Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon to score nine as part of a 12-2 run that cut the lead to four.
Tyreke Evans halted the run and it was then O’Quinn who stepped up on offense to challenge Vucevic, scoring four to help the Pacers bounce back and take control on a 15-2 run of their own. Orlando would come as close as 12, but again, O’Quinn scored four straight to help push the game effectively out of reach. The fun continued in the fourth for the Pacers, completing their four quarter sweep of the Magic to win 112-90.
O’Quinn again stepping up when needed to give the Pacers much needed minutes in the face of illness and foul trouble shows how much care was put in the construction of the roster from a bigs standpoint. O’Quinn entered the game with 10:09 left when Turner picked up his fourth and didn’t leave until the 7:53 mark of the fourth, getting one of his two steals and both of his blocks in that run.
The embodiment of Indiana’s play on the night ran through Thaddeus Young. Young had one of the quintessential Thaddeus Young games, scoring 14 with eight rebounds, four assists, along with a big block and steal in this one. He also went 2-2 from three point range, believe it or not. Young, along with Cory Joseph, anchored Indiana’s defense for much of the game despite Young’s own foul issues.
Though the Magic have been improved on the season, they looked anything but in tonight’s game. Indiana did a great job making them look silly on offense, holding the Magic to 40.9% shooting, 8-33 from deep, and forced Orlando in 17 turnovers, outscoring them 20-5 in points off turnovers.
A play towards the end when Young stuck to Gordon like glue on a possession, completely smothering him as the shot clock quickly expired, was a great encapsulation of just how much fun Indiana was having, especially on the defensive end.
The foul trouble forced Nate McMillan to extend the rotation to 10, which granted minutes for T.J. Leaf, scoring eight in sixteen minutes, showing his knack for follow-ups with three offensive rebounds. Doug McDermott moved well as part of his seven points, and Aaron Holiday also scored seven, finishing with eight rebounds, three steals, and two blocks. Joseph would lead the way on both ends for the bench, scoring 15 on 7-12 shooting, picking up one of five bench steals.
Bojan Bogdanovic was the leading scorer for the game, finishing with 26 points. Part of Indiana’s ability to lock in defensively was due to the effortless play of Bogdanovic on the other end to help keep them feeling feathery. Bogdanovic had 21 in the first half, shooting 9-13 with two threes, also scoring in transition off a steal.
Tyreke Evans reached double figures with 11, leading Indiana at the line at 6-6. The Pacers were 15-18 on the night from the line, their fourth game of over 80% shooting in their last six. Darren Collison had just two, but did lead the way with eight assists, seven of those going to Young and Turner. Turner finished with 10 despite the limited minutes, shooting 4-7 and finishing with six rebounds.
It’d be better to have Oladipo on the floor, but his active engagement on the bench has been great to see and Indiana played with that level of excitement throughout the game. Things were fun for the Pacers and the Magic weren’t working to make things difficult for the blue and gold. They are now 8-6 on the road, second best in the East.
They’ll have a chance to improve on their home record tomorrow night as they return to Indianapolis to face the Sacramento Kings. The frustration of their loss to the Kings just a week ago should still be fresh in their minds as they look to extend their winning streak to three.