On “Teacher Appreciation Night”, and a night where not one, but three cheerleader groups performed, Magic fans found little to cheer about at Amway Center last night. The Orlando Magic were throttled by the Indiana Pacers 112-90.
The Pacers, missing All-star guard Victor Oladipo (Knee) and had to deal with a serious bout of food poisoning that wiped out forward Domantas Sabonis and also bothered a couple of other players and even had head coach Nate McMillan, They proved how deep their team by easily handling the Magic.
Magic coach Steve Clifford had a lot to say about his team’s effort in his post game press conference.
“The challenge is obviously guys accepting their roles, be it shots, minutes, whatever it is,” he said. “They’re the best players in the world, so they have egos, too. So I’d say it’s a challenge for every team every night. Tonight, either end of the floor, it looked to me like the first six or seven games [of the season]. Disorganized, bad shots, no pressure on the defense, never into the ball.
The Magic played like they were the ones with food poisoning. After playing well earlier in the week after a heartbreaking loss to Denver on Wednesday, they were sloppy, unorganized, and simply did not put forth the effort.
Center Nikola Vucevic sprained his ankle in the first quarter, but came back in for a good effort with 22 points to lead the Magic, who were playing their third game in four days.
Forward Aaron Gordon also chipped in with 20 points and 14 rebounds.
But the Pacers defense made the Magic work for every point and took advantage on the other end.
Orlando was dominated by Bojan Bogdanovic, who dropped 26 points on them, making them pay for missed defensive assignments and slack defense that left him open.
Last night’s win extends the Pacers winning streak to eight straight weeks, and it was their eight straight win at Amway.
`The difference in this league between OK and good, good, very good and great is you’ve got to play every night,’’ Clifford continued. “A team like us, we’re good enough to beat anybody, but we can’t have many more of these nights because we’re not going to just show up and beat people. We have to put a lot into it to win and there’s nothing wrong with that.’’
“They’re really tied together [on defense],” said Gordon. “They have some quality defenders on that team. There’s no indecision with them. They know exactly what they want to do.”
The Magic came into the third quarter down by 12 points, 57-45. They managed to battle back in the third to get the deficit down to 4, 63-59 with key shots by DJ Augustine, Vucevic, and Gordon.
Then the Pacers put their foot back on the gas and went on a 15-2 run that the Magic never recovered from.
A 3-pointer by Tyreke Evans produced a 78-61 advantage — the biggest lead of the game to that point — with 3:55 left in the quarter.
Bogdanovic hit two free throws to make it 99-79 with 6:22 to play and the Magic never got closer than 20 after that. The Pacers led by 27 at one point.
Clifford said having a consistent focus, effort and playing style are important in times like Friday when the Magic are weary and battling minor injuries.
`Playing smart, moving the ball and developing the habits can help when you’re not at optimum energy and you can still play a smart game,’’ Clifford said. “One of our biggest qualities is that we’re smart and when we play well, we play smart games. We’ve been playing very good basketball and tonight we didn’t at either end of the floor.’’
The Magic next head over to Dallas,TX to face the Mavericks on Monday, and head to Mexico to face the Chicago Bulls in Mexico City on Thursday, December 13th followed by the Utah Jazz on Saturday, December 15th.
The team returned to Amway Center on Wednesday, December 19th to face the San Antonio Spurs.