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Pacers overcome first-half deficit to beat host Magic

ORLANDO, Fla. — Missing two key members of their backcourt against the Pacers when they returned to Kia Center after a three-game trip, the Magic fell at home Sunday in a fast-paced and physical contest.

Orlando guards Jalen Suggs (right thigh contusion) and Markelle Fultz (left knee strain) both missed a critical matchup vs. Indiana, who sat two games back of Jamahl Mosley’s squad entering the game between the No. 5 and No. 8 teams in the East standings.

The Pacers (36-29), who trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half, completely flipped the script on the Magic (37-28) in the third quarter by outscoring them 39-21 in the frame.

Orlando, who was led by Paolo Banchero’s 19 points, was able to cut into the deficit early in the fourth but couldn’t complete the comeback late in the 111-97 loss, marking just their ninth at home this year.

Led by Tyrese Haliburton (20 points) and Pascal Siakam (20), six different Pacers finished in double figures as Indiana pushed the tempo and scored 27 fastbreak points compared to Orlando’s zero.

It was only the seventh game Suggs has missed this season but marked the second in a row. He missed Friday’s loss at New York after suffering the leg injury late in the game Wednesday at Washington.

For Fultz, Sunday’s game was the 38th contest that he’s missed this year due to injury. The Magic point guard, who has come off the bench in all six games he’s appeared in since the NBA All-Star Break after opening the year in the starting lineup, played less than nine minutes at New York on Friday.

Early in the fourth quarter against the Knicks, Fultz slipped in the paint chasing after Donte DiVincenzo and grabbed his left knee while on the ground before exiting the game and not returning.

The left knee, which is the same one that Fultz had surgery on to repair a torn ACL eight games into the 2020-21 season, has been bothering him all season.

He previously missed 27 games due to left knee tendinitis and Orlando has been cautious with him since his return to the court in early January. The Magic guard has yet to play in both games of a back-to-back following the long absence.

In place of Suggs, Mosley inserted second-year guard Caleb Houstan into Orlando’s starting lineup alongside guard Gary Harris, forwards Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero and center Wendell Carter Jr.

It was a change from Friday’s game at New York when rookie Anthony Black started for Suggs matching him up against Knicks’ guard Jalen Brunson.

Orlando had already clinched the regular-season series over Indiana — having won the first two meetings of the season — but the sides hadn’t faced each other since late-December.

Losers of two in a row, the Magic aim to get back on the track when they host the Nets on Wednesday (Bally Sports Florida, 7).