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Bench comes through as Pacers defeat Magic

The SportsXchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- Littered with former starters and strategically signed role players, the Indiana Pacers' bench is supposed to be one of the best in basketball.

That second unit was no match for the shaky bench of the Orlando Magic, and it made all the difference Monday night.

Forward Danny Granger scored a season-high 16 points to lead a dominant effort from Indiana's reserves in a 98-79 blowout of the Orlando Magic.

Backup point guard C.J. Watson chipped in 12 points and reserve forward Luis Scola added 10 as Indiana's second unit outscored Orlando's 49-19.

"We got a good effort from the bench," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "You have to credit the second unit defensively. When the lead got to 12 (in the fourth quarter), we challenged them to not let the starters get back in."

Mission accomplished, as forwards Paul George and David West and point guard George Hill took off the entire final frame, rest that may pay off Tuesday night when Indiana visits the Atlanta Hawks.

"It was nice," said West, who rolled his right ankle in the third quarter but said it felt OK afterward.

While Orlando's starters performed respectably, Indiana made hay when the teams substituted, and its bench was largely responsible for breaking the game open.

Over a stretch of 11:15 spanning the third and fourth quarters, the Pacers made a 26-6 run to turn a two-point game into a rout. Granger scored six and Watson had five during the surge, which ended when Watson's layup made it 86-64 with 7:45 remaining.

Vogel mentioned before the game that his reserves lacked a rhythm of late, with Granger and Scola in shooting slumps and the bench coming off a season-low seven points on Jan. 30.

Against an opponent missing its starting point guard and lacking depth to begin with, the Pacers bench produced a season-best point total in accounting for half the team's offense.

Second-string center Ian Mahinmi had seven points and five rebounds before leaving with a sore right shoulder.

"It goes back to passing," Granger said. "We've been trying to do it by ourselves a lot these last 10 or 12 games. Once you move the ball, you get a lot more open shots. We get layups, backdoor cuts and 3s. That makes everybody look good."

A former All-Star now playing reduced minutes, Granger made five of nine shots as Indiana outscored the Magic by 26 points during the 24:37 Granger was on the floor.

"He was real good," Vogel said.

Indiana (37-10) is 25-2 against teams that are now below .500 and won its fourth straight meeting with Orlando (13-37), which has the second-worst record in the NBA.

The Magic's young backups -- center Kyle O'Quinn, forwards Andrew Nicholson and Maurice Harkless and guards Doron Lamb and E'Twaun Moore -- were overwhelmed on both ends, even with starters mixed in.

Guard Arron Afflalo scored 20, forward Tobias Harris had 11 and center Nikola Vucevic had 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Magic, who have lost 12 consecutive road games as they struggle to stay out of the Eastern Conference cellar.

Victor Oladipo started at point guard in place of injured Jameer Nelson and pitched in six points, 11 assists, five rebounds and four steals, but Orlando missed his talent on a bench that was often an eyesore.

"They sure did make it tough to score," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said.

The Magic held Indiana to 42 percent from the field but shot just 40 percent themselves.

Guard Lance Stephenson had 15 points, 12 rebounds and five assists for Indiana, while George scored 15.

Indiana started hot and led by 16 early before going ice-cold, as Orlando scored eight of the first nine points in the third quarter to draw within 60-58 on a follow by Vucevic. But the Pacers scored the next six points and restored a 12-point lead before the end of the third.

"We let it slip away," Oladipo said. "It's just something we need to learn from."

Indiana led by seven after one quarter and by 11 with 9:27 left in the second before scoring 10 of 16 points to take a 57-41 lead.

The Pacers led 59-50 at halftime, shooting 49 percent from the field and getting 10 points from George and eight apiece from five other players. Stephenson made only two shots and had eight points at halftime, but grabbed five rebounds and created five assists, including helpers on three straight possessions midway through the second quarter.

NOTES: The Pacers beat Orlando 97-87 on Oct. 29 in the season opener for both teams. The Magic host Indiana on Feb. 9 and April 16. ... Pacers C Andrew Bynum, signed Saturday off the street, has yet to join the team. ... Indiana, which entered 12-0 on the first night of a back-to-back, plays in Atlanta on Tuesday, where the Pacers have lost their last 12 regular-season visits. ... Orlando G Victor Oladipo played three seasons at Indiana University, located an hour south of Indianapolis. He received a loud round of applause when introduced.

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