The Orlando Magic, who started the season with such promise, suddenly must begin to pull themselves out of a downward spiral when they host the surging Indiana Pacers on Monday night. The Magic won six of their first eight games in impressive fashion and have since fallen back to .500 after losing the last four, including an embarrassing 125-85 setback against Utah on Saturday.
Orlando coach Frank Vogel is looking for his team to respond after finishing a road trip with three straight losses and then shooting 38.3 percent from the field while turning the ball over 16 times at home versus the Jazz. “Monday is a must-win for this group,” Magic point guard Elfrid Payton told the Orlando Sentinel. “Obviously, it’s still early. We still have time to get better. But internally I feel like we’ve got to show some fight.” Indiana has won four of its last five games, including a huge 120-95 victory at Miami on Sunday in which it shot 60 percent from the field and drained 11-of-23 from 3-point range. “The camaraderie on this team is incredible,” Pacers center Myles Turner told the Indianapolis Star. “We get along so well on and off the court. I don’t even think we’ve scratched the surface yet.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, NBATV, FSN Indiana, FSN Florida (Orlando)
ABOUT THE PACERS (9-8): Bojan Bogdanovic led the way with 26 points Sunday and Turner, who missed seven games with a concussion from Oct. 20-Nov. 1, scored a season-high 25 on 11-of-14 shooting from the field. “I didn’t have such a great game last game,” Turner told the Star of his seven-point output in Friday’s win against Detroit. “It’s all about bouncing back. This was a statement game for me.” Indiana produced their largest margin of victory Sunday without a big game from leading scorer Victor Oladipo (22.6), who had 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting with four turnovers.
ABOUT THE MAGIC (8-8): Nikola Vucevic, who averages 16.8 points and 7.1 rebounds, told reporters Orlando must get back to playing together and enjoying the game. “Over-dribbling, over-trying to get stuff instead of just playing simple basketball, like we did earlier in the year, it just affects us little by little,” the 7-0 center said. “It just takes away from our energy. It’s like it’s taking little bites (out of us).” Guard Evan Fournier leads the team in scoring (19.2) and makes 42 percent of his 3-pointers while forward Aaron Gordon (17.8 points, 7.8 rebounds) has been consistent.
1. Indiana PG Darren Collison had 12 points in Sunday’s win and is averaging 19.3 over his last three.
2. Orlando PF Marreese Speights is averaging 12.3 points off the bench the last four contests.
3. The Pacers triumphed in all four meetings last season, winning twice at Orlando by an average of 12.5 points.
PREDICTION: Magic 110, Pacers 98