The Orlando Magic remained competitive against the league-best Indiana Pacers for much of Monday's game, but ultimately could not weather their defense in the second half en route to a 98-79 loss: Orlando shot just 28.2 percent in the second half for 29 points. The defeat marks the Magic's 12th consecutive away from Amway Center. Fortunately for them, they play each of their next four at home.
Lance Stephenson made his presence felt everywhere on the court, finishing with 15 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists to go with his typical hard-nosed defense. All-Star swingman Paul George scored a quiet 15 points of his own.
In his second straight start at point guard in relief of the injured Jameer Nelson, Magic rookie Victor Oladipo once again struggled with his shot, going 2-of-11 from the floor for six points. However, he contributed in other ways with five rebounds, 11 assists, and four steals. Arron Afflalo scored 20 points--18 in the first half--to lead Orlando, while Nik Vučević tallied a 16-point, 13-rebound double-double.
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn gave Andrew Nicholson 13 against Indiana, which the second-year big man torched for a team-best 18 points when these teams first met, but Nicholson went 1-of-6 for two points on Monday. Many of his looks were open and appeared to be within the flow of the offense, but they simply didn't drop.
The Magic pulled off a minor miracle in the first half by tallying 50 points on 50 percent shooting against Indiana, the league's stingiest defense in a decade. Afflalo keyed that charge, shooting 7-of-11 for 18 points despite George's defense against him. The Magic's 6-of-9 deep shooting kept their offense humming, and they needed those deep conversions: Roy Hibbert's presence in the paint deters penetration, and Orlando got precious few looks inside the paint. It'd have to augment its offense with jumpers and foul shots in order to keep up with the Pacers.
But the Pacers allowed Orlando just one free-throw try in the first half, and had an uncharacteristically strong offensive performance of their own to take a 59-50 lead into halftime. Six different Indy players scored eight-plus points and the Pacers converted 10 free throws in 11 tries to build that lead. They also limited their mistakes, committing just four turnovers to limit Orlando's fast-break chances.
But in the latter stages of the second quarter and the opening minutes of the third, Orlando made a big run: by the time Stephenson made the Pacers' first basket of the second half--an underhanded runner with Oladipo draped all over him--with 5:39 to play in the third, Orlando had drawn to within four points after trailing by as much as 16. He converted the ensuing foul shot to put the Pacers up five, and then George Hill drilled a three-pointer to boost the lead to eight. Those six quick points gave Indiana a bit of breathing room and stemmed whatever momentum the visitors might have had. Orlando went just 1-of-8 from the floor the rest of the period for three points as the Pacers built their lead to 12. Indeed, despite going without a basket for more than half of the period, the Pacers added to their halftime lead.
The fourth quarter proceeded like the latter part of the third did. In the opening six minutes, the Magic missed seven of their eight shots and committed three turnovers, helping Indiana extend its lead to 20 points. It'd balloon to 24 points moments later, and Orlando never made another run, though Glen Davis stripping Pacers third-stringer Donald Sloan and taking the ball the length of the floor for a dunk at least offered some levity to the proceedings.