INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Danny Granger scored 16 points, Paul George and Lance Stephenson each added 15, and the Indiana Pacers beat the Orlando Magic 98-79 on Monday night.
Indiana (37-10) won for the second time in three days and maintained its grip on the NBA’s best record.
The reeling Magic were led by Arron Afflalo with 20 points and Nikola Vucevic with 16. Orlando (13-37) lost for the fourth time in five games and is a league-worst 3-23 on the road.
It wasn’t nearly as easy as it seemed.
Orlando cut a 16-point second-quarter deficit to nine at the half, to 60-58 in the third quarter and even had two chances to tie the score.
But the Pacers answered with six straight points and put away the Magic with an 18-1 run that started late in the third quarter and ended with the Pacers up 86-64 with 7:45 left in the game.
Stephenson, who leads the NBA with four triple-doubles, finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds and five assists before leaving a little earlier than usual on the first game of back-to-back.
C.J. Watson had 12 points and Luis Scola added 10 for the Pacers.
After nearly two weeks of struggles, this was a welcome respite — though it was from perfect.
By playing defense and taking better care of the basketball, Indiana managed to withstand a dreadful shooting drought early in the second half without giving up the lead. The same combination allowed the Pacers to pull away late.
But Indiana couldn’t put away Orlando after taking a 55-39 lead midway through the second quarter.
Instead, the Magic closed the period on a 9-2 run, then watched the Pacers miss their first 10 shots in the third quarter as they crept back within two on Vucevic’s tip-in with 7:01 to go.
Indiana’s defense then held tight until Stephenson ended the drought with a circus jumper that banked in as he drew a foul on Victor Oladipo. Stephenson made the free throw to give Indiana a 63-58 lead and the Magic never got another chance to tie it.
Instead, Indiana settled down, closing the third quarter on a 9-1 run to make it 75-63.
And when the Pacers opened the fourth on a 7-1 spurt, it was all over.