It was a game many had earmarked as an easy victory for the Indiana Pacers, but former Indiana University standout Victor Oladipo wasn’t one of them. Behind Oladipo’s team-high 23 points, the Orlando Magic beat the league’s best team, 93-92.
For the Magic it was their second straight victory over a top-tier team as they beat the Oklahoma City Thunder – league’s second best team – on Friday. That game ended on a thrilling Tobias Harris buzzer-beating dunk.
Indiana jumped out to a 31-28 lead at the end of the first and pushed their lead to 52-43 at halftime. In typical third quarter fashion, the Pacers came out hot, upping their lead to 17 with a David West layup with 3:45 remaining. A lead like that is usually a good sign for the Pacers, especially when they are playing a lower-tier team like Orlando, but Oladipo wasn’t ready to admit defeat.
By the end of the third quarter, the Magic had whittled the lead down to 10. The fourth quarter then belonged solely to Oladipo. After playing eight minutes and 50 seconds in the third, Oladipo played the entire fourth quarter, scoring 13 of the team’s 29 and almost single-handedly outscoring the Pacers who scored 18 total points in the fourth.
Paul George kept the Pacers alive down the stretch, hitting two big three-pointers within the last two minutes to keep the Magic lead at two. George Hill slammed home a fastbreak dunk to cut the lead to one with 14.9 seconds left and a steal by Lance Stephenson setup the Pacers for a buzzer-beater, but George’s 18-foot jumper fell short as time expired.
The game wasn’t a total loss as it appears George may have finally kicked out of his recent slump. He scored 27 points, his first time scoring 25-plus since playing the Sacramento Kings on Jan. 24.
Stephenson returned to action after sitting out against the Portland Trail Blazers due to a sore back. The tempo was kicked up a noticeable notch for the Pacers with Stephenson back in the lineup, something they were desperately missing against the Trail Blazers. Stephenson finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and three assists.
After blowing up against Portland, Hill and West both had quiet games. Hill finished with 12 points, seven assists and four rebounds, while West had 14 points, four rebounds and one assist. And big man Roy Hibbert had a terrible night offensively, six points, but made up for it on the defensive end, accumulating four blocks. He also finished with seven rebounds and three assists.
This marked the first time all season the Pacers have lost in the first game of a back-to-back and only the second time they’ve lost when leading after three quarters. Indiana will have to get over their 11th loss of the season quickly as they travel back to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to take on the Denver Nuggets tonight.