The night may have been about first-time All-Star Nikola Vucevic, but the fourth quarter belonged to DJ Augustin and Terrence Ross in a 107-100 desperately-needed victory over the Indiana Pacers.
After a slow start to the third quarter that saw the Magic lead quickly evaporate, Ross exploded out of the fourth quarter gate with 11 consecutive points (13 total in the period) including back-to-back threes, followed by back-to-back steals and transition conversions.
Then Augustin closed with 14 fourth quarter points, including the deciding three free throws attempts, when he got Darren Collison to bite on a pump with just over 40 seconds left.
“Special night for us as a team well deserved,” Augustin said. “He’s (Vuc) been great this season. He’s been carrying us. I’ve been playing with him for three years. He’s a brother to me.”
The Magic were led by Ross and his 30 points on 5 of 8 shooting from three-point range, and also got strong contributions from Vucevic (17, nine rebounds), Jonathan Isaac (13 points, 13 rebounds), and Aaron Gordon (10 points).
“Two things I said after the game,” head coach Steve Clifford said. “DJ’s free throws, and Jonathan Isaac’s competitive spirit. Those were the difference.”
Isaac fought all game long, and continued his improved play with a new career-high in rebounds and a couple of highlight reel worthy swats.
The Magic improve to 21-31 with the victory, and trail the eighth seeded Hornets by but three wins with 30 games left to play.
The Magic started hot in this one and raced out to impressive leads throughout the first half, but each time the Pacers launched their own counter attack behind 16 first-half points from Thaddeus Young (who was held scoreless in the second).
The Magic led by as many as 13 in the first, 46-33, and it was all behind the scorching touch of Ross, who buried 4 of 6 three-pointers, and added 15 points in just 12 minutes.
Once Ross left the floor with 4:04 to play in the second, the Pacers launched a 15-5 run, closing the gap at the half to 51-48. It was the Magic defense that fell apart late in the half. After holding the Pacers to just 7 of 22 in the first, they allowed Indiana to shoot 11-for-24 in the second, including second-chance points in the form of offensive rebounds (five), and were repeatedly blitzed by the high pick-and-roll.
Vucevic added 13 points, and six rebounds, and Isaac started strong yet again with nine points, eight rebounds, two assists and one monstrous block in the first half, helping to mitigate Young’s early affect.
The third quarter was shaky, especially offensively for the Orlando Magic as the Pacers raced out to a 17-4 run and their first lead of the game. The Magic were held to just four points well past the six minute mark in the frame, and scored just 18 in the period.
Behind an explosive third from Myles Turner, the Pacers led by as many as eight in the frame, 65-57, but the Magic would respond with a 7-0 run to close the gap to 65-64.
It was careless turnovers that continued to give the Pacers the advantage, as the Magic’s tally rose to 13 while the Pacers committed but nine, and walked into the third with a 73-69 advantage.
Vooch with the dish.— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) February 1, 2019
A.G. with the dunk. pic.twitter.com/AU0i8BQ6Ms
With the momentum shifting furiously to the Pacers’ bench, Ross would again respond with back-to-back three-pointers followed by back-to-back steals in transition leading to a nasty dunk and two converted free throws for an 11-point single handed run that put the Magic on top, 85-81 early in the fourth.
Augustin would climb into double-digits with five consecutive points, giving the Magic their largest lead since the second, 96-89.
But a Turner three-point play, and steal and in transition by Collison, would put the Pacers back within two points with just under two minutes to play, 96-94.
Then with 1:26 to play, Augustin pulled off a nice sell, with the play clock down to two. He caught Collison out of position and off his feet, and flailed into him drawing the three-point foul.
Augustin and Ross finished their 27 point combined fourth quarter effort, securing their first victory in four games, and ending the eight game losing streak to the Pacers.
Turner led the Pacers with 27 and seven rebounds, Bojan Bogdanovic had 21 points, Young put in 16 points and ten rebounds, and Darren Collison scored 16 points and a game-leading ten assists.
The home stand continues on Saturday night, as the Magic host the Brooklyn Nets at 7 p.m. eastern time.