The Herald Bulletin

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Sports

March 19, 2013

Pacers pull away to beat struggling Magic 95-73

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers broke out of their funk Tuesday night.

Now they just have to play good basketball.

The second-best team in the Eastern Conference got 19 points from Paul George and 14 points and 14 rebounds from Tyler Hansbrough, leading the Pacers to a 95-73 rout over struggling Orlando.

It’s just what Indiana needed after losing two of its last three games and, surprisingly, two of its last three at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, too.

“I feel like if we continue to play the way we played today then we can be a tough team to beat,” George Hill said after scoring 14 points. “We know the offense will come. I feel like we played a complete game today. “

It was the perfect remedy.

After losing two straight to the Lakers and 76ers last weekend, the Pacers (42-26) rebounded by sweeping a back-to-back against two inferior opponents, Cleveland and Orlando. The win gives Indiana a five-game lead over Chicago in the Central Division and a three-game lead over New York for the No. 2 seed in the East.

And despite a sluggish start and the absence of two starters, Indiana made this one look easy. David West, the Pacers’ second-leading scorer, missed the game with a sprained lower back. Danny Granger also sat out again with a sore left knee.

But against a team shooting as poorly as Orlando, it didn’t matter.

Hansbrough replaced West, making only his second start of the season and delivered by grabbing nine offensive rebounds and making 6 of 7 free throws in 27½ minutes. He sat out the fourth quarter with what team officials called an abdominal cramp, though they said he could have returned.

“You can get into a rhythm when you have kind of a steady flow of minutes and get a feel for yourself and let the game come to you versus coming off the bench,” Hansbrough said. “I feel forced to do things and feel a little pressure with that. But I know my position on this team. As soon as David gets healthy, I’ll go back to my position coming off the bench and trying to provide energy.”

On Tuesday, that job fell to a handful of others, including Gerald Green, who finished with 15 points and eight rebounds.

But Orlando had to contend with its own problems.

The Magic (18-50) were dreadful, shooting 31.8 percent from field and a dismal 3 of 15 from 3-point range. They ended the first quarter by missing their final 11 shots, and Maurice Harkless and Arron Afflalo each scored 10 point while nobody else hit double figures. Coach Jacque Vaughn was even ejected during a four-technical flurry in the third quarter as Orlando lost its fourth in a row.

“I did watch it in the locker room, but I don’t think I’m the first coach be kicked out of a game,” Vaughn said, drawing laughter. “It’s not a big deal.”

How ugly was this game?

Indiana started by missing its first six 3-pointers, and Orlando needed two baskets in the final minute of the first half just to avoid breaking the franchise record for futility. They scored 27 points in the first half of a game Jan. 24, 2005 at Houston.

Nikola Vucevic’s tip-in with 29.3 seconds left cut Orlando’s deficit to 40-29.

There were air balls, missed dunks, missed layups — even shots off the side of the backboard.

“Early on, I thought we looked good shooting but they didn’t go in,” Vaughn said. “Whether it was a putback, we had a dunk attempt or an open 3, it just didn’t go in.”

The worst part came was a three-minute stretch during the third quarter when the Magic looked completely inept.

Twice, Orlando was called for fouls underneath after Indiana made long jumpers. The first came on George Hill’s 3-pointer with 7:16 to go. Roy Hibbert completed the rare four-point play by making the free throw.

Sixty-nine seconds later, it happened again. This time, Lance Stephenson made a 19-footer and Hansbrough completed the three-point play.

Eighty seconds after that, the officials called a double technical on Hibbert and Kyle O’Quinn, and when Vaughn walked onto the floor to argue, he drew two more technicals and was tossed.

George made both free throws to give Indiana a 60-44 lead, and Orlando never got closer than 12 again.

“You watch the tape, you evaluate it, you see if you’re really struggling and you see areas that you’ve got to clean up, “ coach Frank Vogel said. “We settled down and got two big wins.”

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