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Pacers 114, Magic 113: Another clumsy third quarter dooms the Magic in close road loss

Despite some huge plays by Franz in the closing minutes, the Magic couldn’t seal the deal in Indiana

Orlando Magic v Indiana Pacers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Riding high on the back of Jalen Suggs’ heroics the previous night in Chicago, the Magic came into Gainbridge Fieldhouse with the hopes of firing up their first road winning streak of the season. However, the combination of tired legs, injury unavailability, and some costly decisions down the stretch coalesced into a heartbreaker, the Magic falling by a single point on the second night of a road back-to-back.

The Magic started fast, a Suggs’ triple from the corner initiating a 10-1 opening run by Orlando. The second-year guard was busy during the stretch, with a quick 5 points and 2 assists complemented by a wonderfully drawn offensive foul to shut down a 3-on-1 Indiana fast break. His decisiveness delivered the team the start it wanted.

Tyrese Haliburton began to will the Pacers back into it, scoring or assisting on each Indiana bucket as they rattled off an 11-4 run of their own to get back within two. The Magic responded immediately, turning the defensive length of Bol Bol and Mo Bamba into buckets at the other end, a Bamba three in transition capping an 8-0 spurt that put Orlando up double digits and sent Indiana scrambling to a time out.

The game tightened up over the final minutes of the first frame, the two teams cutting back on the careless turnovers and trading chances back and forth. The shooting numbers for both sides went cold, however, the Magic cashing in a Chuma Okeke three-pointer to maintain most of their advantage before a buzzer-beating trey by Bennedict Mathurin brought Indiana within six. After one quarter of play it was 28-22, Orlando’s way.

The Pacers continued to chip away at the Magic’s lead in the opening stages of the second, a manic pace in transition generating plenty of chances both in the lane and beyond the arc. They couldn’t find the tying basket, however, with Franz Wagner flashing enough wizardry with the ball in hand to keep Orlando’s nose in front.

When the Bol and Bamba connection checked back in the Magic were able to reclaim the momentum, disruptive defense again fueling opportunities at the other end. The pair helped Orlando re-establish a ten-point lead, a cushion they ultimately needed to weather a near two-and-a-half minute scoreless stretch as the quarter wound towards a close. To the Magic’s credit they regathered their collective composure, pushing the gap back to 7 on another mid-range finish from Suggs’ before a Haliburton half-courter closed proceedings, Orlando up 55-51 at the main break.

Leading the way for Orlando was Bamba, the big man responding to his elevation to the starting unit with 13 first-half points to go along with 4 rebounds. Suggs was everywhere in racking up 9 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds, while Bol added 8 points and 5 boards of his own. Impressively, the Magic combined for 6 blocks and 5 steals across the first two quarters, the team’s disruptive efforts contributing to 11 turnovers and just 40.0% shooting from the field by the Pacers.

A Buddy Hield three to open the quarter pulled the Pacers within a single point, Orlando surviving a couple of possessions on which they could have surrendered the lead. As they had done all night, however, they steadied, Bol and Wagner both getting some pretty baskets in transition.

Back up by 9 things were again looking more comfortable, but a slow defensive rotation resulted in a made three by Jalen Smith while a bad pass by Suggs gifted Haliburton an uncontested dunk on the very next play. Some big jumpers by Bol ensured the Magic kept the scoreboard ticking over, but a three-point barrage by the Pacers soon leveled proceedings. They twice tied things up on looks from beyond the arc before an 8-footer by Smith gave them their first lead of the night, Orlando now facing an 81-77 deficit as the teams went to a timeout.

Indiana continued to press the advantage in transition, pushing the ball up court with speed at every opportunity. It paid dividends against a tiring Magic outfit, the Pacers ultimately building a 13-0 run that established a 10-point margin. Wagner did what he could to help Orlando keep pace, drawing contact on a drive to the hoop and burying a deep triple that allowed the team to close within 5 despite a stagnating offense. One final stop ensured that’s where the gap would remain as the quarter closed, the Magic trailing 89-84 with twelve minutes to play.

The result hung in the balance throughout the fourth, both teams searching for the ascendancy but unable to secure the run they needed. A clunky 5-0 spurt by the Magic eventually brought them back within a basket, Bamba’s third three-pointer of the night making it 98-96 as the quarter neared its halfway point. A timely RJ Hampton triple against a spaced-out Pacers’ defense put the Magic back in front, Bol then securing an offensive rebound on the next possession that he bobbled in to push Orlando’s run to 10-0.

The Pacers responded coming out of a huddle, Haliburton again serving as the conductor as they put together a quick 7-0 burst. Four straight free-throws by the Magic once more knotted the score, some excellent one-on-one defense by Suggs stifling Indiana’s most important player and ensuring Orlando the stops they needed.

A huge three-point make by Wagner pushed Orlando ahead 110-107 with two minutes remaining. After a pair of Indiana free-throws he one-upped himself, drilling an enormous step-back triple to build a four-point cushion at the 1:43 mark. Unfortunately the Magic would go scoreless the rest of the way, ultimately conceding an offensive rebound to Aaron Nesmith in the game’s final seconds that he turned into two more free-throws and a one-point Indiana lead. Wagner’s driving layup rimmed out at the death, Orlando falling 114-113 in a heartbreaker.

Orlando’s three stars

Hockey is a pretty great sport, so I thought I would steal one of its best little touches for my own game analysis: the three stars. Here is who caught my eye tonight.

First star: Franz Wagner — did everything within his power to drag the Magic over the line in this one, falling agonizingly short. 29 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists made for an impactful night, while his 9-17 shooting from the floor, 5-9 from deep and 6-6 from the line speaks to the efficiency of his play.

Second star: Bol Bol — some genuine unicorn sequences with the ball in hand as he put together a final line of 22 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks, and a handful of ‘what did I just witness?!’ plays. .

Third star: Jalen Suggs — 12 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks, and some excellent individual defense, particularly in the closing minutes. His play gave the Magic a real sniff, even if he did cool off in the second half (and with turnovers remaining a concern).

The two teams are back at it again in 48 hours, the Magic with a chance at both redemption and a winning record on this three-game road trip come Monday night.