Monta Ellis wills Indiana Pacers to win over Orlando Magic

By Tim Povtak, The Sports Xchange  |  Jan. 7, 2016 at 1:44 AM
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Veteran guard Monta Ellis didn't join the Indiana Pacers as a free agent this summer to build up his career scoring average.

He came to win games down the stretch, which is just what he did Wednesday night.

Ellis scored 17 points in the second half, including six in the final minute, to lift the Pacers to a 95-86 victory over the Orlando Magic.

Ellis, in his 11th NBA season, is averaging the fewest points (13.5 per game) since his rookie year, but he looked like the star Wednesday when he took charge and made the right plays when it counted.

After the Magic rallied to score eight consecutive points and pull to 89-86 with 58 seconds remaining, Ellis shut the door by scoring the game's final six points on six consecutive free throws.

His 3-point basket just before the shot clock expired with four minutes remaining also was key.

"It's all focus. I've been in these situations a lot," Ellis said. "I've hit a lot of game-winning shots in my career. I love that moment. But still, this was a team win. There's a lot of experience in this locker room."

Forward Paul George scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds, snapping his three-game, 30-points-or-more streak. Ellis finished with 19 points and seven assists. Together, they made all 15 free throws they took.

"(Ellis) was great tonight," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "Making big plays, sealing the game with his free throws. We like to put the ball in his hands and let him make the reads. He made some big shots, made some big passes."

Guard George Hill had 16 points for the Pacers, including nine in the final period. Center Ian Mahinmi finished with eight points and a game-high 12 rebounds.

The Magic (19-17) lost their fourth consecutive game as their offense continued to struggle.

Orlando guard Victor Oladipo scored 20 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter. Center Nikola Vucevic had 17 points, and forward Evan Fournier added 13 points.

The Magic made 16 of 17 free throws, but they sank only six of 31 3-point shots (19.4 percent). They have scored 91 points or fewer in each of their past four games.

"You've got to make threes in this league if you want to win the game," Magic coach Scott Skiles said. "I didn't feel like Indiana played that well, but they were still about to beat us."

Indiana (20-15) made only six of 22 shots from 3-point range, but it sank 25 of 29 free throws.

"We've just got to go out and get a win right now," Magic forward Tobias Harris said, "but that's easier said than done. We just weren't able to make the shots. We had open looks, but they never fell. We've got to expect better of ourselves."

The Pacers grabbed the lead early in the third quarter and never lost it, although the Magic pulled to within two points early in the fourth.

Indiana led 66-59 going into the final period. Ellis scored eight points in the third when the Pacers led by as many as nine points. The Magic struggled in the third with six turnovers that became 10 points for the Pacers.

The Magic led 38-37 at halftime, despite making only one of 14 shots from 3-point range. Orlando was balanced early with Vucevic, Fournier, forward Jason Smith and guard Shabazz Napier each scoring six points.

The Pacers opened with an 11-2 lead when the Magic missed nine of their first 10 shots . The Magic grabbed their first lead, 30-28, on a 3-pointer by Napier midway in the second quarter. George had nine points in the first half.

NOTES: Magic PG Elfrid Payton (sprained left ankle) missed his second consecutive game after playing in the first 116 games of his NBA career. PG C.J. Watson, who was expected to be Payton's backup this season, remains sidelined with a calf injury. ... The Orlando Sentinel reported that the Magic are closer to establishing a central Florida-based NBA Development League team for the 2017-18 season. ... Pacers G George Hill returned to the lineup after missing Monday's game because of food poisoning. ... Pacers G C.J. Miles played despite injuring a shoulder on Monday in Miami . ... Pacers F Paul George already has scored 30 or more points 12 times this season, eclipsing his career high of 11 set in the 2013-14 season. ... The Pacers won for the 10th time in their past 11 meetings with the Magic.

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