Aaron Gordon said it best when he called this victory a team win.
While it was Gordon who had one of his best all-around games of the season, it was the Magic’s balanced attack, particularly from the second unit, that lifted the team to a crucial victory.
Of the Magic’s nine-man rotation, seven players were in double figures and two finished with nine points en route to a 121-116 road win over the Indiana Pacers. Everyone got involved as the Magic moved the ball flawlessly, assisting on 37 of 47 made baskets while committing just seven turnovers.
With the Pistons, Nets and Heat all winning on Saturday, the Magic managed to keep pace in the playoff race with the upset win over the fifth seeded Pacers, who were fighting for positioning themselves.
The Magic won the season series against Indiana, 3-1, winning twice on the Pacers’ home court. Indiana, now 28-10 at home, lost just two home games in March, and both were against the Magic.
Rarely during this game did it seem like a match-up between two of the league’s best defensive teams.
The Magic shot 60 percent in the first quarter, assisting on 16 of their first 18 baskets. The Magic, who led by as many as seven in the opening quarter, were up just 32-28 after the first thanks to the Pacers connecting on 58 percent of their attempts from the field. Sidenote: With a layup midway through the quarter, Nikola Vucevic passed Shaquille O’Neal (8,019) for fifth place on the Magic’s all-time scoring list.
The second quarter was a quarter of runs. The Pacers opened on a 10-2 run to take a 38-34 lead. The Magic responded with a 9-2 run of their own to regain the lead at 43-40. A 10-0 run by the Pacers later in the quarter put them back in front at 54-49 with just over two minutes remaining in the half. The Magic, who shot 55 percent and had 20 assists in the half, then closed on a 7-2 run to pull within 57-56 at the break.
With the Pacers attacking the paint at will, shredding the Magic in the pick-and-roll and dominating the glass, they shot over 66 percent in a high-scoring third quarter. A 12-2 run, capped by a Darren Collison three, gave the Pacers an 82-73 lead with 4:17 remaining in the third. It was the Magic second unit - Terrence Ross, Khem Birch, Wes Iwundu and Michael Carter-Williams - who provided a lift on both ends of the court that kept Orlando in the game. On the offensive end, Ross (9 points) and Carter-Williams (8) combined to score the final 17 points of the quarter for the Magic. Ross drained three three-pointers, the last of which gave the Magic an 88-87 lead with 1:02 remaining in the third. The Pacers would take a 92-90 lead into the fourth.
Gordon opened the fourth with a three, which was a sign of things to come. He’d hit three threes in the quarter, the last of which gave the Magic a 115-106 lead with 1:53 remaining in the game. Gordon scored 11 of his 23 points in the fourth...
After the Pacers pulled within five, D.J. Augustin drove the lane with the clock winding down and converted an up-and-under to put the Magic in front 117-110 with 29 seconds to go, sealing a much-needed road victory.
Go D.J., cause that's our D.J. pic.twitter.com/DDIPjmVQjA— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) March 31, 2019
The Magic shot 51 percent from the field, including 15-for-38 from threes (39.5 percent). Gordon, in addition to scoring 23 points on 9 of 15 shooting, added 10 rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Vooch had 19 points but was very quiet on the glass, grabbing a season-low two rebounds. Augustin had 11 points, 10 assists and no turnovers. Jonathan Isaac had 14 points and eight rebounds. Evan Fournier added nine points and six assists.
The Magic got 45 bench points, led by Ross, who finished with 16. Carter-Williams and Birch each had 10 points and two blocks, and Iwundu added nine points.
MCW/Ross/Iwundu/Birch were a combined +57.— Orlando Pinstriped Post (@OPPMagicBlog) March 31, 2019
AG gets the game ball. But the bench got us the win.
With five games left, Orlando remains a half-game behind the Heat for the eighth seed, a game behind the Nets for the seventh seed, and 1.5 games behind the Pistons for the sixth seed.
The Magic, now 2-1 on this road trip, face another challenge in the conclusion of the trip when they play in Toronto on Monday.