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Magic 114, Pacers 94: Magic continue their hot streak as Vucevic makes his return

Even with playoffs an impossibility, the Magic haven't given up on the season just yet, blowing out yet another postseason-hopeful team.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being officially eliminated from postseason contention, the Magic continue to look like they have something to fight for, playing spoiler again against another playoff-hopeful team.  That effort led to yet another blowout win as Orlando ran away from the Pacers in the second half to get the 114-94 victory.  Evan Fournier led the Magic with 25 points, scoring inside and outside at will, while Nikola Vucevic had an outstanding performance in his first game back from his groin injury, putting up 25 points and looking good in the process.  Paul George led all scorers with 27 points, but that wasn't enough to compensate for the Pacers' miserable defensive night.  Orlando gets the easy win despite allowing 17 offensive boards and only making 5-17 from downtown, thanks in large part to their 53% shooting overall.

The offensive excellence the Magic have demonstrated recently was still in full effect to start Thursday's game.  In the first quarter, the Magic hit over half their shots by consistently getting into the paint in the halfcourt and on fastbreaks. Dewayne Dedmon started the game, but quickly found himself in foul trouble, opening the door to bring Vucevic into the game for the first time in more than 3 weeks.  He looked a little awkward at times, but still managed to get 6 points.  The Magic's starting guards distributed the ball well early on, combining for 7 assists in the first quarter.  If they had a weakness, it was their poor defensive rebounding, but Indiana was equally bad protecting their own glass.  George was the leading scorer for Indiana with 9 points in the first quarter, but Orlando's energy and team play outpaced his individual efforts, and the Magic led 33-28.

Things slowed down for both teams in the second.  Andrew Nicholson, coming off his career-best performance against the Nets, continued to assert himself offensively, scoring in the post multiple times and even drawing a double-team that led to a Fournier triple.  Fournier was the the game's leading scorer at halftime, getting 13 points thanks to that 3-pointer and several makes in the paint.  Another positive note for the Magic was their ball security in the half, as they gave up only 6 turnovers.  At one point Orlando held a 9-point advantage, but Indiana cut the lead by the end of the half to 6, leaving Orlando up 57-51.

The start of the second half was not as smooth for the Magic, as they continued to get killed on the offensive glass, while also giving away four quick turnovers in the first four minutes.  Those chances gave Indiana the chance to get back into the game with a 9-0 run.  Orlando came right back, however, scoring on the next four possessions with an Oladipo 3, a Payton layup, a Fournier 3, and a putback by Payton.  From there it looked more like the first half, and the Magic gradually pushed their lead up to a dozen with more crisp passing, especially around the paint, but also to outside shooters.  For Indiana, George did everything he could to keep them in the game, scoring 16 of their 28 third-quarter points.  While that was enough to outpace Fournier's scoring, it wasn't good enough to keep up with Orlando as a whole, who put up another 30+ point quarter.  A last second jumper from Brandon Jennings after George lost the ball gave the Magic a 89-79 lead.

Vucevic, who seemed to get more comfortable as the night went on, really got into a rhythm in the third and fourth quarters of the game, hitting almost every jumper he took to help the Magic close things out, including 10 on 5-6 shooting in the fourth.  The defense finally locked in for Orlando, as well, holding the Pacers to just 10 points in 10 minutes before both teams emptied their benches.  Tonight's win was the third in a row for Orlando, and broke a 10-game losing streak on the road.