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Indiana bench sets pace in win over Magic

The SportsXchange

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers talked excitedly throughout the summer and training camp about how much better their bench would be this season.

They wasted no time proving it as their reserves fueled a surge that led to a 97-87 win over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night.

Indiana led 69-64 at the end of the third quarter before dominating the fourth. Orlando made just two field goals in the first five minutes of the final quarter. By then, Indiana's lead was 86-71. Indiana's reserves scored all 17 points during that run, including six each from Luis Scola and Orlando Johnson.

Paul George, who had 24 points, six rebounds and five assists, was thrilled to get the extra help. He started the fourth quarter on the bench, and by the time he re-entered the game, the Pacers had a 14-point lead.

"Man, that was special," he said. "We haven't had that in a while, a dominant bench, and it's good to get our starters off the floor sometimes and be able to see from the bench what's going on."

Lance Stephenson scored 19 points, Roy Hibbert had eight points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks, and David West added 13 points and five blocks for Indiana, which has championship aspirations after falling to Miami in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals last season.

A lack of depth held Indiana back during last year's playoffs, but with the additions of Scola in a trade with Phoenix, C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland as free agents and Solomon Hill in the draft, the Pacers expect more efforts like Tuesday's performance.

"We haven't always had that, " Hibbert said. "Not a knock on the guys we had last year, but we have very skilled bench players that can push the lead and extend it."

Andrew Nicholson scored 18 points and Maurice Harkless added 14 for Orlando. First-round draft pick Victor Oladipo had 12 points and Jameer Nelson added 12 points and seven assists for the Magic.

Hibbert set the tone for the Pacers. He broke out in the playoffs last season and hopes to continue to play that way.

"I want to be able to pound people on the offensive glass, defensive glass," he said. "My whole deal is strive for consistency, and hopefully I can do that consistently the whole year."

Indiana blocked 18 shots as a team, a team record for a home game.

"One of our strengths is our length," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "We preach not fouling and going straight up, getting a hand on the ball, not on the wrist."

Oladipo, who played college basketball at Indiana University about an hour's drive from Indianapolis, received a standing ovation when he entered the game.

"It felt good getting that reaction from the fans, but I like to win," he said.

George was impressed with the athletic rookie.

"Oladipo is going to be a great player in this league," he said. "I told him after the game, 'Just keep working.' His team is in really good hands."

The Pacers, known last season for their outstanding defense, opened the game on a 12-0 run. Orlando didn't score for almost four minutes and missed its first six shots. The Pacers led 23-18 at the end of the first quarter.

Orlando rallied behind Nicholson. He scored 18 points in the first half to help the Magic take a 44-40 lead at the break. Hibbert had eight points, 15 rebounds and four blocks in the first half, but the Pacers negated the effort by committing 12 turnovers.

The Pacers started the second half much like the first. Indiana went on a run, and a basket by George Hill on an assist from West put Indiana up 45-44. Another jumper by Hill forced Orlando to call timeout. The Magic didn't score for nearly three minutes to start the second half.

Orlando cut Indiana's lead to 65-64 on a floater by Ronnie Price, but the Magic was called for delay of game and issued a technical foul. West made the free throw with 6.1 seconds left in the third quarter, plus Indiana retained possession. George hit a contested 3-pointer over Price at the third-quarter buzzer.

NOTES: Pacers F Danny Granger sat out due to a strained left calf. The team expects him to miss about three weeks. ... Former Purdue player E'Twaun Moore came off the bench for Orlando and finished with six points in 26 minutes. Purdue is about a 90-minute drive northwest of Indianapolis. ... Hibbert grabbed five rebounds in the first 2:30 and ended the first quarter with six points and 12 rebounds. ... The Pacers won their fourth straight home opener.
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