The Orlando Magic entered play Sunday night against the Indiana Pacers ranked last in the NBA in most offensive statistical categories (points per game, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, offensive rating, etc.). However, that didn’t stop the Magic from going 15 for 36 (41.7%) from long range in front of their home crowd.
One would think that one of the top performing defensive teams in the league (thus far) would be more than fine in a game where they posted that kind of offensive production.
The Pacers ran away from the Magic in the second half of Sunday night’s tilt en route to a 109-102 victory at Amway Center.
Domantas Sabonis scored 21 points, grabbed 16 rebounds, and dished out 7 assists for the Pacers, and Malcolm Brogdon scored 19 points to go along with 8 assists and 6 rebounds.
“I’ll tell you, I’m surprised,” Coach Steve Clifford said during his post-game conference of his team’s second half play. “We played an energetic first half, and we had nothing the last 24 minutes. 12-0 (Indiana run) to start...our ball movement, which was good in the first half - energetic, quick, crisp - the extra dribble and the probe to start the third quarter crushed us.”
The Magic started the game red-hot from the field, knocking down 8 of their first 12 attempts from the field (converted 3 of their first 4 three-point attempts).
Orlando’s starting back-court of Markelle Fultz and Evan Fournier made their presence felt right away against the Pacers. Fultz was able to get the ball in the paint at will, converting two layups at the rim, while Fournier knocked down three early jump shots.
Fournier’s second three-point make of the evening came in transition following a monstrous Jonathan Isaac weak-side block that got the home crowd going early. The Magic, who have struggled mightily shooting the basketball from pretty much everywhere on the floor this season, hit five three-pointers in the game’s first period.
Orlando welcomed back Terrence Ross Sunday night after a two-game absence due to a sore knee. Coach Clifford got his veteran guard an easy look off a beautiful side out-of-bounds play late in the first quarter which really seemed to get Orlando’s sixth-man going. Ross gave the Magic a lift in the first half, knocking-down his first four shot attempts (nine first half points). He finished with 12 points in 18 minutes.
The Magic led by as many as 13 points in the second quarter, fueled in part by their ability to get their hands on the ball defensively. Orlando blocked seven shots in the first half (two each from Mohamed Bamba and Nikola Vucevic) while also recording four steals.
Vucevic was particularly active in the first half, recording a double-double in just under 17 minutes (11 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocked shots in first half).
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An interesting tidbit from the game’s first half was that Indiana and Orlando combined to attempt just one free throw. The 11 total free throws attempted in Sunday’s contest resulted in the lowest number of combined free throw attempts in one game in NBA history.
The nine-point advantage the Magic enjoyed at the break was immediately erased when the Pacers came out of halftime on a 12-0 run.
Malcolm Brogdon was particularly effective in the third quarter, scoring 8 of his 19 points in the period. Fournier had trouble throughout the night keeping Brogdon in front of him. The fourth-year guard was able to get off mid-range jumpers, get in the lane (and find teammates), and get all the way to the rim pretty much whenever he wanted Sunday evening.
Orlando’s outside shooting kept them afloat, but they were badly outplayed by Indiana in the third quarter. The Magic provided very little defensive resistance as the Pacers rattled off 30 points in the period (outscored Orlando 30-17 in third quarter).
Back to back field goals from Doug McDermott with just over six minutes remaining gave the Pacers their largest lead of the game, 95-85. McDermott scored 10 of his 18 points in the second half. Indiana also received a really nice lift from T.J. McConnell, who scored six points in the fourth quarter (12 points and 8 assists in the contest).
“The two most important players of the game (in my opinion) were McConnell and McDermott,” Clifford said after the game. “We had talked about that in shoot-around. They’ve (Indiana) been getting really good bench play and those two guys drilled us.”
The Magic rallied late in the fourth quarter to make the game somewhat interesting. A thunderous Fultz dunk in transition made it a two possession game with under a minute left in the contest, but a Brogdon “three” from the top of the key with the shot-clock winding down sealed the win for Indiana.
Fournier led the Magic with 22 points (7-13 FGA’s, 6-8 3PTA’s).
Vucevic recorded his seventh double-double of the season, scoring 18 points to go along with 17 rebounds. He passed Tracy McGrady tonight to move into third-place on the Magic all-time scoring list (8,299 career points in Orlando, trails only Nick Anderson and Dwight Howard).
Orlando, now 3-7, will have a couple of days off before hosting the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.