ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)—The Indiana Pacers’ playoff push is off to a great start.
Barely missing a beat despite a week’s layoff for the All-Star game, the Pacers routed the Orlando Magic 108-84 on Tuesday night.
“What happened for us tonight is we played really good defense and really good offense,” said Jermaine O’Neal, who scored 20 points in 22 minutes. “That’s a deadly combination. If we can get both sides of the court going for us, we’re a tough team to beat.”
The Pacers, winners of three straight and six of eight, moved percentage points ahead of Philadelphia for the East’s final playoff berth.
“Orlando’s a quality team, and ahead of us in the standings,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’ve got to build on this.”
Indiana shot 50 percent and had six players score in double figures en route to its largest margin of victory this season.
Jamaal Tinsley, returning from a foot injury, had 11 points and six assists. He missed all but 2 minutes of the previous eight games.
“I don’t think he’s 100 percent but he’s giving us what he can give us,” Carlisle said. “He showed that even at less than full capacity he’s still a major player on our team.”
Added O’Neal: “Having our floor general out there is always good.”
Anthony Johnson had 10 points.
On defense, the Pacers held the Magic to 38 percent shooting by shutting down their playmakers. Orlando’s leading scorers, Steve Francis and Grant Hill, combined for 20 points while missing 18 of 25 shots.
But the Magic might have bigger problems than losing five of eight, capped by their worst loss of the season.
Earlier Tuesday, the team fined Francis an undisclosed amount for missing a practice after he failed to catch his flight from Houston on Monday.
“The fact that a key player wasn’t there, it was a distraction. There’s no getting around that,” Orlando coach Johnny Davis said.
Francis didn’t blame going AWOL for his horrific game: six points on 2-of-10 shooting; four turnovers against two rebounds and an assist. An apology wasn’t coming either.
“That was something that happened. It was personal reasons,” said Francis, who celebrated his 28th birthday Monday. “I’ve been fined before.”
“I’m not worried about it one bit.”
The Magic opened the game 1-for-18, missing 15 straight shots, and fell behind 18-5. Only turnovers kept Indiana from further establishing control.
Orlando briefly showed some life, making five straight shots to rally with 13 consecutive points. Jameer Nelson had two baskets in the run, and he later scored nine straight points, with his jumper putting the Magic up 30-27. In that run, the Pacers missed nine consecutive tries.
Jameer finished with 15—13 in the first half.
That’s when Indiana took over. Over the next 17 1/2 minutes, spanning halftime, the Pacers went on a 59-20 tear.
Even more impressive, the first part of the run came without any help from O’Neal. After a third foul sent him to the bench with 6:53 left before the break, Indiana collected itself, then rolled off the half’s last 17 points.
With 54 seconds left in the third quarter, Indiana held a 29-point lead and was never threatened again. The margin twice reached 31 in the fourth quarter.
“It’s the first time we’ve had a chance to get a big win on somebody,” Jackson said. “It’s definitely a great way to start the second half of the season. I pray to God we can keep it up.”
The Magic had lost only four of the previous 14 times in the first game after the All-Star break, including a 10-2 mark at home. … O’Neal picked up a technical foul for arguing late in the first quarter. … Hedo Turkoglu also was hit with a technical for complaining in the third quarter.