On a cool, overcast night in Orlando, the Magic and Indiana Pacers heated things up inside the Amway Center with an important matchup for both teams. Despite some better play for much of the game, the Magic's inconsistencies once again bit them, with the Pacers taking home a 95-86 win.
For the Magic, losers of three straight coming into the night, it was an opportunity to turn things around and save a quickly sinking ship. In the Pacers case, it was a chance to rebound after a 2-5 stretch since improving to 16-9 mid-way through December.
Once again, the Magic got off to a slow start, falling behind 11-2 early on, prompting a Scott Skiles timeout. Out of that break, the Magic showed an improved energy level, cutting the Pacers lead down to three with a quick 8-2 burst of their own. As has been the case recently, the Magic's defense struggled to contain the Pacers big men, with Ian Mahinmi getting lost on multiple early possessions. Their offense showed some good signs with strong ball movement, but were unable to get much momentum going due to shots just not falling. Slow start aside, the Magic found themselves down just two, 22-20, after one.
Turning to their bench, things began to get better for the Magic on the defensive end. After allowing the visitors to shoot 50 percent in the opening quarter, Indiana was held to 31.8 percent in the second quarter, helping allow the Magic to keep the game close. The Magic were able to continue to find open shots throughout the quarter, with the ball finally going through a few times, including once form deep after an 0-12 start. In a low scoring first half, the Magic found themselves with the lead, up 38-37 after 24 minutes.
Out of halftime, the Magic's defense saw struggles return, with the team unable to slow down the Pacers without fouling. As a result of their foul happy tendencies, the Pacers found themselves in the bonus for nearly nine minutes of the quarter, which resulted in trip after trip to the free throw line. In total, the Pacers shot 11 free throws in the quarter, making 10 of them, as they seemingly took the game over from the Magic. After three low scoring quarters, the Magic found themselves down seven, trailing the visitors 66-59 heading into the fourth.
Down seven, the Magic found themselves looking for some consistency on both ends to try and take home the win. Like the Pacers did in the third, the Magic got the visitors into early foul trouble, getting to the bonus with half the final quarter to play. Despite having the Pacers in the penalty, the Magic weren't able to take advantage, with the Pacers extending their lead out to eight late in the quarter.
After George Hill made three free throws to put the Pacers up 11, Victor Oladipo and Evan Fournier hit a pair of three-pointers to draw the Magic within five. Following a stop on the defensive end, Oladipo drew a foul on Hill when attempting to get to the basket, subsequently knocking down the pair to cut the Pacers lead to three with just under a minute to play. Monta Ellis knocked down a pair of his own to put the Pacers back up five with 50 seconds to go as things began looking bleak for the sinking Magic. A pair of misses from the Magic and a foul sent Ellis back to the line, sealing the game for the Pacers.
Paul George led all scorers, finishing with 20 points on the night. Ellis finished the night with 19, with Hill adding 16 for the victorious Pacers.
Oladipo tied George with 20 to lead the way for the shorthanded Magic. Nikola Vucevic finished with 17 points, with Fournier adding 13 before fouling out.