Magic 95, Pacers 87
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)—Jermaine O’Neal didn’t know what to say. His Pacers lost for the 17th time in 19 games, and their usual spot in the playoffs is slipping away.
He couldn’t do much to stop Orlando in a 95-87 loss Friday night, and the All-Star looked down with reddening eyes after a question about his name in trade rumors. He didn’t answer, waving off reporters after about 10 seconds of silence.
“It’s not really about what other teams are doing,” said O’Neal, bothered by Dwight Howard into 4-for-18 shooting and eight turnovers. “It’s about what we’re doing. On a better way to put it, what we’re not doing to win games.”
The victory was Orlando’s third in 10 days against the three teams fighting the Magic for the last two postseason spots in the East. The Pacers are hurting, but not out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Ariza scored seven points in a 1:35 fourth-quarter span that gave Orlando a 79-66 lead with 7:20 left. He had two impressive dunks—one on a fast break, the second an alley-oop from J.J. Redick.
The Pacers came no closer than three points in the second half, and that was with just under 4 minutes left in the third quarter. Indiana didn’t score again in the period.
“Every possession counted,” Ariza said. “Although we struggled in the first half with turnovers, we kind of picked it up on defense I thought. We capitalized on their mistakes.”
Howard had 10 points, eight rebounds and five blocks, and Hedo Turkoglu scored 10 points on 3-for-13 shooting.
The Pacers went 4:33 in the second quarter without scoring a point, allowing the Magic to take a 43-32 lead. O’Neal sat the last four minutes of the quarter with three fouls.
Both teams, among the NBA’s worst in turnovers, handled the ball horribly. Orlando coughed it up 24 times to Indiana’s 22.
“It just has to stop,” Magic coach Brian Hill said. “Dwight had seven of them. How many walks did we have tonight? We had at least four walks, four or five walks.”
O’Neal was back in the lineup after resting Wednesday with left ankle and knee sprains, but spent most of the game in foul trouble.
Trailing 51-41 at halftime, Indiana opened the third quarter with a 10-4 run. The Magic turned the ball over six times in the first 6 minutes of the second half.
Hill brought them back with seven consecutive free throws—all on hard drives to the basket. A fast break layup and free throw from Ariza put Orlando ahead 67-56 at the start of the fourth quarter.
Though the postseason is still possible for the Magic and Pacers, both have struggled in the second half of the season. Orlando started 13-4, but besides last week hasn’t won two straight since January.
The Pacers have been worse, going 11-22 since trading the troubled Stephen Jackson to Golden State in an eight player deal. Most of their losses lately haven’t even been close—12 by double digits, five by 20 points or more.
“Every question is probably a good question as to why we are not winning,” O’Neal said. “There are a lot of reasons as to why we are not winning. There is no consolation for hanging around in a game and no consolation after a close game.”
Indiana started 29-24, a win percentage that would now have them in contention for the third, fourth, fifth or sixth Eastern Conference spot.
The game started a stretch of four at home for Orlando, three against sub-.500 teams (Indiana, Minnesota and Memphis).
Tipoff was moved to 8 p.m. for ESPN. … The season series is tied at 2-2. … Orlando was 0-3 against Indiana last season. … The road crowd gave Pacers G Darrell Armstrong a warm reception. Armstrong played in Orlando from 1994-2003.