The Magic, coming off an inexcusable loss to the Kings, took the court in Indiana and played arguably their best half of basketball all season. They put up 70 points, built a 21-point lead, and made many highlight-reel worthy dunks.
Then everything changed in the second half.
The Pacers, who were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, went on a 15-0 run in the fourth quarter to regain the lead en route to a 114-112 win, handing the Magic perhaps their most heartbreaking loss of the season.
A four-point play by Aaron Gordon gave the Magic a 32-22 lead heading into the second quarter. The lead reached 21 points late in the second quarter as the Magic shot 60 percent in the half and set a season-high for points in a half, eclipsing the 67 they scored against the Pistons in December.
It didn’t take long into the third quarter to realize the Magic’s defensive intensity wasn’t where it had been in the first half. After some easy drives to the basket, Frank Vogel called a timeout just 91 seconds into the third.
A 16-5 run by the Pacers pulled the Pacers within seven. Elfrid Payton later stripped an outlet pass and delivered a cross-court pass to Evan Fournier, who hit a long two to give the Magic an 82-71 lead and seemingly stopped the bleeding. But with the Magic struggling to make their free throws (2-for-7) in the third, the Pacers continued to chip away and trailed 92-84 entering the fourth.
After a three by Shelvin Mack with 7:00 left that put the Magic up 104-94, Orlando wouldn’t make another field goal until 1:36 remained.
The Pacers carved up the Magic in the pick-and-roll, led by Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Sabonis capped a 15-0 run with an and-one layup off a feed from Oladipo that gave the Pacers a 111-106 lead with 2:22 left.
The Magic cut the deficit to one after a driving layup by Evan Fournier with 22 seconds remaining. Sabonis then made one of two free throws to increase the lead to two. After Gordon missed a jumper, Jonathon Simmons grabbed the offensive rebound and swung the ball back to Gordon, who drove the lane and was fouled on the dunk attempt. He missed the first free throw (he was 3-for-8 from the line on the night) and missed the second attempt intentionally.
Fournier grabbed the loose ball and found a wide open Simmons, who was unable to knock down what could have been the game-winning three.
Gordon had 22 points and 11 rebounds. Fournier has 21 points and Birch added 11 off the bench. Oladipo scored 16 of his 24 points in the second half and added six assists and five rebounds. Sabonis had 17 points and nine rebounds. Lance Stephenson added 21 points and Thaddeus Young had 20 points.
The Magic now head on the road for a challenging match-up against the Rockets on Tuesday.