ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando’s last-second victory over Western Conference leader Oklahoma City on Friday had the potential to be a season highlight for a team seemingly already holding a one-way ticket to the lottery.
It turns out the Magic weren’t quite done turning heads.
Victor Oladipo had 23 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter, and the Magic rallied to surprise East-leading Indiana Pacers 93-92 on Sunday night.
Indiana stole Orlando’s inbounds pass with nine seconds left and Paul George was able to get off a 20-foot jumper. But it came up short and was rebounded by the Magic, who ran out the clock.
"Today going into the fourth quarter (coach Jacque Vaughn) just simply told us whoever plays hard is going to win the game. ‘If you really want to win you’ll play harder than them,’" said Oladipo, who played the entire fourth quarter for the second consecutive game. "That second unit played hard, played together, and most of all we just played D, let our defense juice our offense."
Orlando has now beaten the top teams in both conferences in back-to-back games, following its 17-point comeback against the Thunder. The victory ties the Magic’s season-high win streak of three games. It also extends their home win streak to five consecutive games.
Nik Vucevic added 19 points and 13 rebounds.
Vaughn praised the energy that Oladipo played with late.
"It starts with his enthusiasm for basketball, and it’s really infectious to his teammates," Vaughn said. "They want to play for him, they want to play with him and I’m sure glad he’s in a Magic uniform."
Before the game, Pacers coach Frank Vogel said that he didn’t think his team was taking any games for granted prior to the All-Star break. He went as far as to recite Chuck Daly’s old line to "never trust happiness in the NBA."
There wasn’t much Sunday as the Pacers had multiple defensive lapses in both halves which helped the Magic to hang around and eventually steal the game late.
George led the Pacers with 27 points. Lance Stephenson added 16. The loss ends Indiana’s win streak at four games.
Vogel said his team’s inability to stave off a third quarter push by the Magic was the difference.
"They picked up their energy," he said. "We’ve got to handle it. There was a stretch there in the third where we could have put them away. We were a little careless with some possessions … and it was costly."
The Pacers carried over some of their momentum from the first half and built as much as a 17-point lead in the third quarter. That advantage was cut to 10 entering the fourth.
Orlando recovered some of its early-game energy, and started the final quarter on a 14-3 run to take its first lead of the second half — 78-77 — with less than 8 minutes to play.
It would grow as high as 88-81 before the Magic cooled off — missing four straight shots — to allowed the Pacers to cut it to 88-86 on a 3-pointer by George.
But the Magic found their shot and got their lead back up to six with just over a minute to play.
Another 3-pointer by George on the other end trimmed it back to 92-90 with 37.7 seconds remaining. That was followed by an offensive foul on Oladipo which turned the ball back over to Indiana.
George got free at the top of the key for another attempt from 3, but his shot bounced off the back of the rim and was grabbed by Oladipo, who was fouled.
He connected on 1 of 2 free throw attempts, leading to a scramble for the rebound that ended up in a jump ball between David West and Glen Davis.
West tapped it near midcourt, and George Hill was able to scoop it up and sprint ahead for a layup to cut it to 93-92 with just 14.9 seconds left.
It wasn’t enough, though.
"We are good," George said. "This is obviously a game we got to take care of … but we are still positive. It happens. We just have to do a better job and learn from this."
And for the second straight game, the Magic were able to turn their early mistakes into late-game mettle.
While it is only two wins, Magic veteran guard Jameer Nelson said they are certainly victories to build on for this young team.
"I’ve always said it’s a process," Nelson said. "You’re not gonna just become a great team overnight. Not too many teams have done that. You have to work on it; you have to learn and get better."
NOTE: Nelson celebrated his 32nd birthday on Sunday.