Monday, February 10, 2014
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Magic overcome big deficit to beat Pacers

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[February 10, 2014]  ORLANDO, Fla.  The Orlando Magic still have one of the worst records in the NBA, but they have proven they can beat the best in dramatic fashion.

The Magic (16-37) beat the Indiana Pacers 93-92 Sunday night, overcoming a 17-point, third-quarter deficit against the top team in the Eastern Conference.

Two days earlier, the Magic overcame another 17-point, second-half deficit to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, who had the best record in the Western Conference.

"What that means is that we have no excuses now," said rookie reserve guard Victor Oladipo, who had 23 points and sparked the late turnaround. "We have to play every night like we played tonight. It's all about approach and energy. There is no reason why we can't have that every night."

Indiana forward Paul George scored a game-high 27 points and added seven assists, but he missed a heavily contested, 18-foot jumper with one second remaining, capping a frantic finish for the Magic.

Pacers guard Lance Stephenson had 16 points and nine rebounds. Forward David West had 14 points and guard George Hill had 12.

The Magic got 19 points and a game-high 13 rebounds from center Nikola Vucevic. Magic forward Tobias Harris added 13 points.

"Our guys earned it, and they deserved this one," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "It's about competing as hard as you can, and giving yourself a chance. It's part of our growing as a team."

The Magic never trailed after Oladipo hit a jumper with 7:10 remaining for an 80-79 lead, but they barely survived the smothering Pacers defense at the end.

They allowed Stephenson to score on a jump-ball breakaway with 16 seconds remaining  cutting their lead to one  then the Magic called two timeouts before an inbounds turnover led to George's final shot.

"We talked about that (Magic win over Oklahoma City) before the game, and that OKC was up by 17 points," West said. "We knew they wouldn't give up. But they just played harder. They were the more sound team down the stretch. They took control of the game late, and I thought we got a little loose. They have guys capable of making big plays."

Oladipo sparked the fourth-quarter turnaround by scoring 12 points in the first six minutes of the period, quickly erasing Indiana's 10-point lead. He started with a three-point play and followed with a 3-point basket. He added three rebounds, two assists and a steal in the final period before finishing with a free throw for the 93-90 lead. He was everywhere, it seemed.

"It was one of those streaks where the rim looks like a river, or the sea, and you just keep shooting with confidence," Oladipo said. "You feel like that, and you're playing with a lot of confidence."

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The Magic's biggest lead was 86-79 lead. In the fourth quarter, the Magic shot 52.4 percent from the field against the best defensive team in the NBA. The Pacers had beaten the Magic in Indianapolis twice this season, by 19 and 10 points, respectively.

"Yes, they (Magic) play with a lot more confidence at home," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "Their run (in the fourth) took control of the game. Victor Oladipo is growing as a player, He was leading the charge. You have to give him credit."

George, who had hit 5-of-8 shots from 3-point range, could have changed the outcome with his final shot, which was contested.

"I didn't make the shot," he said. "I thought I got hit. I didn't think I got hit up top, but I felt like Big Baby (Glen Davis) finished through me on the shot. It is what it is."

Vucevic had nine points and seven rebounds in the third period, but the Magic could not cut into the deficit. The Pacers led by as many as 17 points in the third but only by 10 going into the final period.

The Pacers led 52-43 at halftime, riding a fast start by George, who hit five of his six shots in the opening quarter.

Stephenson led everyone with 14 points in the first half and hit two of his three shots from 3-point range.

The Magic made a 15-4 run midway through the first quarter for a 25-17 lead. Guard Jameer Nelson hit two 3-pointers to spark the surge.

The Pacers regained the lead late in the first quarter, then limited the Magic to just 15 points in the second quarter, building the nine-point cushion at intermission. Vucevic had 10 points and four rebounds by halftime.

NOTES: Pacers G Lance Stephenson returned to the lineup Sunday after missing Friday's victory over the Portland Trail Blazers with a lower back strain. In one game earlier this season against the Magic, Stephenson had 12 rebounds and was instrumental in the Pacers' crushing the Magic on the boards. ... As much as any team, the Magic are well aware of how good the Pacers are defensively. In the two previous games against them, the Magic shot just 39.2 percent combined. ... Pacers coach Frank Vogel credits the mental approach for why his team has been so good this season after losing in the conference finals last spring to the Heat. "This group, I think, is more focused than most teams," Vogel said. "They realize how close we came last year. You might only get this close once in your career. They know they're dealing with what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." ... G Jameer Nelson, the subject of considerable trade talk, is just the second player in Magic history to wear the team jersey for 10 seasons. ... The Magic won for the sixth time in their past seven home games, but they have the league's worst road record (3-23).

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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