'Damo' lights up Orlando to snap skid

Rookie Damjan Rudez scores 16 of his career-high 18 in final quarter as Pacers rally to end seven-game losing streak.

Another game seemed to be slipping away entering the fourth quarter, then Damjan Rudez caught fire.

Who?

That would be the Indiana Pacers’ 6-10 rookie forward from Croatia, who had scored in double digits just three times in 34 games entering Sunday night’s road game against Orlando.

“Damo” scored 16 of a career-high 18 points in the final quarter as the Pacers erased a seven-point deficit and snapped a seven-game road losing streak with a 106-99 victory over the Magic at Amway Center.

Rudez hit four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, the last with 21.2 seconds remaining to give the Pacers a 105-99 lead.

"I'm happy the shots dropped," Rudez said in an on-court interview televised by Fox Sports Indiana. "I had a couple of shots that felt really good, in this game and in the last game and they kind of went right out. Coach just keeping me there was a sign for me that I just had to keep shooting it."

Pacers point guard George Hill, in his third game back from injury, came off the bench to score two key baskets before the final Rudez 3-pointer. Hill drove in for a layup to give Indiana a 99-97 lead, then followed that with a break-away dunk off a turnover.

The Magic (15-32) closed to 101-99, but Pacers center Roy Hibbert sank a foul shot. Then Rudez grabbed an offensive rebound off a Hill miss and sank the 3-pointer to basically end it.

The Pacers (16-30) outscored the Magic 31-17 in the final quarter to end their third lengthy losing streak of the season. They had lost eight consecutive games in one stretch through Dec. 13 and six straight after winning the season opener at home.

Rudez started the visitors back with a 3-pointer to cut the fourth-quarter deficit to 88-82. His next 3-pointer got the Pacers to within 90-88, then he tied the game with a left-handed dunk to force a Magic timeout.

Rudez then buried another 3-pointer to give the Pacers a 93-90 lead in an 11-0 run. That shot enabled him to tie his previous career high of 13 points. But he wasn’t finished.

After an Orlando free throw, Ian Mahinmi threw down a two-handed dunk off a C.J. Watson pass. The Magic tied it at 95. Rudez hit a running left-handed floater in the lane. Orlando tied it at the line to set the stage for Hill’s back-to-back baskets, Hibbert’s foul shot and Rudez’s final 3-pointer.

"I think we all kept positive," Rudez said. "We kept believing that at one point it had to turn around for us. ... We're all happy we finally got a win."

The Magic have now lost five in a row.

"Hopefully this is going to be a turning point for us," Rudez said.

Forward David West led six Pacers in double digits with 20 points. In addition to Rudez’s 18, Hill had 17, Rodney Stuckey 15, Hibbert and Watson 11 apiece.

Magic center Nikola Vucevic scored a game-high 27 points. Former Indiana University star Victor Oladipo had 18 for Orlando.

The Pacers shot a season-high 51.8 percent (43-of-83) while the Magic shot 49 percent (38-of-78). It’s just the fifth time this season Indiana has shot at least 50 percent, and the Pacers are 4-1 in those games.

Indiana dominated the boards 47-33. Hibbert grabbed a game-high 13 and Mahinmi had 10.

Indiana improved to 8-19 on the road after the final stop in a five-game road trip. They’re 8-11 at home, and the schedule finally brings them back to Bankers Life Fieldhouse for five consecutive home games and six of seven, beginning Tuesday night against the Toronto Raptors (29-15).

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.


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