Pacers spread out Magic for 1,000th career home win

Late surge enables Indiana to square season record at 4-4.

In simple numbers, 19 plus 19 equaled 1,000 for the Indiana Pacers Monday night.

The first 19 represented Paul George’s point total after one quarter against the Orlando Magic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The second 19 stood for the Pacers’ finishing 19-3 run.

A 97-84 victory was the Pacers’ 1,000th career home win opposite 580 defeats in the franchise’s 40-year NBA history.

“We got some turnovers that gave us some energy and we were able to come down and make some shots,” George said of the final push.

When the Pacers (4-4) spread out their offense, the Magic (3-5) struggled to defend and self-destructed on offense with misses on 7-of-8 shots and seven turnovers. An 81-78 deficit quickly turned into the Pacers winning going away as point guard George Hill scored seven of his 23 points and George added five of his game-high 27.

George and Chase Budinger hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions and then Hill converted a turnover off a fast break with an emphatic dunk for an 88-81 lead as part of a 14-0 run.

“Just making a play,” Hill said of the slam. “(Paul) was in the huddle in the previous timeout saying, ‘Somebody has got to make a play.’ … We just tried to do the best we can defensively and get out on the break and I guess I was the one at the head of the storm. It was my time to make a play.”

While the Magic committed 22 turnovers, Hill didn’t have one for a third consecutive game. 

“He’s been playing superb all year,” head coach Frank Vogel said of Hill. “Steady, steady performer for us. Shooting the deep ball really well, trying to push the tempo, organizing the offense and bringing great defensive play to the point guard position on that end.

“Twenty-three points, zero turnovers, very impressive.”

So, too, is George’s scoring in the past four games. The two-time All-Star forward says he’s not all the way back yet from a broken right leg last season, but one wouldn’t know it from the recent results as he’s scored 26, 36, 32 and 27.

The sixth-year pro was aggressive from the outset, looking for his shot in the opening quarter and hitting 6-of-9 including both 3-pointers. Nobody else was scoring yet for the Pacers, so George’s early spurt had the game tied at 25 after the first.

“Once you get going, then you’re in a rhythm and you’ll score, with a small lineup or a big lineup,” Vogel said of his message to George.

The Magic are young and aggressive, which meant George wanted to establish his game from the jump.

“I got going, didn’t allow them to dictate how this game is going to go,” George said. “One thing you’ve got to do against this team is just constant movement. If you stand still, it’s where their defense is really great.

“I got moving, was able to cut, get a lot of action weak-side and was able to take advantage of their aggressive defense.”

Despite not having their leading scorer, injured center Nikola Vucevic, the Magic were pesky. They led by five in the final minute of the third quarter. Forward Evan Fournier finished with 21 points and former Indiana University star Victor Oladipo had 15.

But Vogel knew the spread offense would work against the same style of play. The Pacers have talked a lot about playing with smaller lineups to improve scoring with transition points and moving defenses around with quick passing.

The final 7:28 couldn’t have been more one-sided. The Pacers didn’t just spread out the Magic and conquer, they dissected them in finishing with a season-high 25 assists.

“It’s the right lineup to play against a team that’s playing a spread offense,” Vogel said. “You need to have speed out there and the ability to switch. It’s difficult to guard a spread offense with two big guys out there trying to chase around the 3-point line.”

The Pacers prevailed despite shooting guard Monta Ellis scoring just two points and reserve guard Rodney Stuckey tweaking a sore right ankle and managing just six points.

They hit 11-of-25 3-pointers while the Magic were 10-of-33. Hill hit 4-of-6, George half of his six, Budinger 2-of-3 and C.J. Miles 2-of-6 in his first game back after missing three starts with a sore right ankle.

Despite playing its fifth game in seven days, Indiana had the energy at the end to outscore Orlando 25-13 in the final quarter. And the Pacers have won four of those five.

“We definitely locked down defensively,” Budinger said. 

The Pacers are at Boston Wednesday and then return home to host Minnesota Friday.

Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.


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