EditorsNote: Shortened head; minor fixes throughout
Khem Birch gave Orlando the lead for good with a dunk in the second minute of the fourth quarter and the visiting Magic outplayed Indiana down the stretch of an important game for both teams, beating the Pacers 121-116 Saturday night.
A seventh win in their past eight games allowed the Magic (38-39) to move within one game of .500 in a tightly bunched group of five teams vying for the final three playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
Meanwhile, the Pacers (45-32) lost for the seventh time in eight games, delaying their bid to finish ahead of the Boston Celtics for the No. 4 seed in the East.
Neither team led by more than nine points before a fourth quarter that began with five lead changes, the fifth of which was produced by Birch’s dunk that created a 97-96 Orlando advantage.
Aaron Gordon had two baskets, including a 3-pointer, and Terrence Ross made a 3 of his own in an eight-point run shortly thereafter that allowed the Magic to put some distance between themselves and the Pacers at 107-98 with 6:50 to go.
Indiana got as close as 117-113 on a 3-pointer by Wesley Matthews with 20.1 seconds remaining, but Nikola Vucevic and Jonathan Isaac iced the win when they each made two free throws.
Gordon led the Magic with 23 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, with more than half his points coming on four 3-pointers.
Orlando won the game from beyond the arc, making 15 of 38, compared to the Pacers’ 9 of 24.
Indiana outshot the visitors, 52.7 percent to 51.1 overall.
D.J. Augustin (11 points, 10 assists) also recorded a double-double for Orlando, which has gone 2-1 on a four-game trip that ends Monday night at Toronto.
Vucevic had 19 points, Ross 16, Isaac 14 and Birch and Michael Carter-Williams 10 apiece for Orlando, which won three of four from Indiana in the season series.
Myles Turner notched a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double for the Pacers, who had a four-game home winning streak snapped.
Darren Collison led Indiana with 24 points to go with nine assists, and Bojan Bogdanovic had 22 points, while Matthews totaled 13 points and Thaddeus Young, Domantas Sabonis and Doug McDermott 10 apiece.
—Field Level Media