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Indiana Pacers stay hot, beat Orlando Magic

By Tim Povtak, The Sports Xchange

ORLANDO -- The Indiana Pacers believe they have shed those earlier, midseason blues.

They are ready to win big now.

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The Pacers beat the Orlando Magic 105-102 Sunday night, displaying the confidence and cohesiveness they lacked earlier, pronouncing themselves now ready for a run toward the playoffs.

"Our whole mindset has shifted," said Pacers forward Paul George. "We're playing with more confidence down the stretch in games, with a confidence that we're supposed to win. It's going to change the way we finished the season."

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The Pacers (30-25) won their second consecutive game and fourth of the last five after winning in Oklahoma City Friday night.

Pacers guard Monta Ellis had 21 points, including 10 in the decisive fourth quarter. George had 20 points, including 15 in the second half after a woeful start. Center Ian Mahinmi had 14 points and nine rebounds. Rookie forward Myles Turner, who joined the starting lineup 10 games ago, had 12 points and eight rebounds, and scored Indiana's last six points.

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"We feel like we can do something here," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "I love the way we're playing defense. We're going to win with our defense. We've got a heck of a starting frontcourt."

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Reserves C. J. Miles and Jordan Hill had 14 and 13 points, respectively. Jordan Hill added 10 rebounds in his 16 minutes.

"We're past the growing pains, and we went through a reboot during the All-Star break," Ellis said. "Everyone came back with a goal we're trying to meet, and that's finishing the second half strong and catch fire leading into the playoffs."

The Magic (24-30) were led by Evan Fournier with 23 points. Center Nikola Vucevic had 19 points and a team-high 13 rebounds. Victor Oladipo had 17 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Reserve guard Brandon Jennings had 12 points and seven assists, his second good game since coming in a trade from Detroit last week. Forward Aaron Gordon had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

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Turner, who was quiet for much of the second half, hit back-to-back jumpers late, giving the Pacers a 103-99 lead with 1:14 remaining. Gordon hit a jumper and Vucevic a free throw to close the gap to 103-102.

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Ellis missed a shot with 10 seconds remaining. Oladipo missed a 3-pointer with three seconds left. Turner finished with two free throws to end the game.

The Pacers shot 50 percent from the field (41 of 82) to overcome a woeful 17 turnovers in the first half. They had only four in the second half.

The Magic shot 41.8 percent (38 of 91) and only 65.5 percent (19 of 29) from the free throw line.

"We had a chance to win, but it almost seemed like a miracle that we did," Magic coach Scott Skiles said. "Missed layups, missed free throws, a ton of busted defensive coverages. We just didn't play a real professional game from beginning to end."

Miles opened the fourth period with a fall-away 3-pointer from the corner, but he fell to the floor holding his knee, limped off the court and never returned.

Jennings and Fournier hit back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the third period to lift the Magic to a 67-61 lead. George scored 13 points in the period, including a nifty three-point play, to lift the Pacers to an 80-79 lead going into the fourth.

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It was tied at 47 at halftime as the Pacers shot 55.9 percent (19 of 34) from the field in the first half, but committed those 17 turnovers, a record for a Magic opponent. The Magic shot just 36 percent (18 of 50), but committed only five turnovers before intermission.

George, who had averaged 25.2 points in his previous five games, scored just five points in the first half. The Pacers got an early lift from reserves Jordan Hill and Miles, who each had nine points early.

Fournier hit a pair of 3-pointers and had 12 points before halftime. The Magic led by as many as eight points in the first quarter when the Pacers committed 10 turnovers.

NOTES: Magic CEO Alex Martins said that his team will bid to host either the 2019 and 2020 NBA All-Star Game. The Magic last hosted the game at the Amway Center in 2012. ... Magic coach Scott Skiles was not happy with the early-game energy of C Nikola Vucevic, his team's leading scorer who was pulled after four minutes and three missed shots. He re-entered the game late in the first quarter. ... The Pacers were the 10th consecutive team that the Magic have played with a winning record. ... Pacers F Paul George had averaged 27.2 points in his last five games against the Magic, and he has scored at least 20 points in the Pacers previous five games, including 22 in the big win Friday against Oklahoma City. ... Pacers F Myles Turner has averaged 13.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks since moving into the starting lineup 10 games ago. ... Magic C Dewayne Dedmon returned to the active roster after missing Friday's game with the flu. ... Pacers G George Hill has shot 48.3 percent from 3-point range since Jan. 1.

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