A quiet second half kept Howard from becoming the first player in 15 years to record three straight 20-point, 20-rebound games.
“We’ve got a lot more games to play,” the 20-year-old Howard said. “If I keep playing hard, working hard in practice, good things will come.”
Indiana shot 18-of-37 in the first half, but lost its touch in the second. The Pacers hit just two of their first 11 in the fourth quarter and 13-of-40 in the half, staying close only from the free throw line.
“We shot 40 percent. If we would have shot a couple percentage points higher and got rid of a couple turnovers, we would have been in a great position to win,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said.
Grant Hill and Darko Milicic each hit jumpers on consecutive possessions to give Orlando a 90-82 lead with 2:36 left in the fourth. But the Magic missed several free throws down the stretch, allowing Indiana to creep within three points with 7.8 seconds left on Jamaal Tinsley’s layup.
Hill hit two free throws the next trip down to seal the win. He finished with 14 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Darko Milicic had 11 points, six rebounds and three key fourth-quarter blocks.
With the win, the Magic are 8-4 and two games ahead of the Atlanta Hawks in the Southeast Division.
“Indiana does a good job of controlling the tempo, making you play at their pace,” Hill said. “The fact that we were able to buckle down and get the win I think shows we got some fight in us.”
Tinsley had 19 points and seven assists before fouling out with 5 seconds left, while Danny Granger scored 10 points.
Howard was on pace for a 20-20 game with 12 points and nine boards at halftime, but couldn’t get to the glass in the second half. Indiana’s big men poked the ball out of his hands several times as Howard turned to face the basket, contributing to the young center’s team-leading five turnovers.
Jackson’s third game off the bench was already one more this season than he had played as a reserve either of his two previous seasons combined with Indiana. He had been shooting just 33 percent from the field as a starter, but is making 40 percent since the switch.
Trailing most of the game, the Magic used a 10-0 third-quarter run to take a three-point lead on Howard’s alley-oop from Nelson with 8:43 left in the period. Indiana played most of the quarter without three starters—O’Neal, Granger and Tinsley—who each had four fouls.
“I think it was just a matter of making shots. I think the game was pretty much evenly played tonight,” O’Neal said. “They did a good job on driving the ball, getting to the free throw line.”
Reserve Keith Bogans nailed a 3-pointer with just over a minute left in the third for a 72-65 Orlando advantage—its largest of the game.
The Pacers had won two in a row, both over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Magic rookie J.J. Redick was active for his second game this season, but again did not play. … O’Neal went to the locker room with an injury in the first quarter, but came back to the floor, apparently unaffected, with 9:22 left before halftime. … Carlos Arroyo, Pat Garrity, Redick and James Augustine were scheduled to donate and deliver Thanksgiving food for charity Thursday.