|Pacers look to continue hold on Magic|
Since losing Victor Oladipo to a wrist injury, the Indiana Pacers are experiencing mixed results but feeling more at ease about taking the floor without their leading scorer than last season when he missed time with a knee injury.
When it comes to facing the Orlando Magic, the results for the Pacers are one-sided in their favor.
Heading into Friday's visit to Orlando, the Pacers are on a seven-game winning streak against the Magic.
Indiana is 4-4 since losing Oladipo to the injury three weeks ago. He will sit again when the Pacers seek their seventh straight in Orlando and 14th win in the last 15 meetings.
Four different players have led Indiana in scoring in the last eight games and in Tuesday's 96-90 win over the Chicago Bulls, Darren Collison led the Pacers with 23 points while Myles Turner collected 18 points, 11 rebounds, and five blocked shots.
"Last year, we were still trying to figure it out," Turner told reporters following Thursday's practice. "(Losing Victor) was definitely a gut punch. We didn't have anyone step up and be that go-to guy and be that leader.
"And really, we haven't had anyone be that one guy this year. We've had a bunch of go-to guys step up. We don't have one guy we rely on when Victor is out. We have plenty of guys we rely on who can go out and score."
Tyreke Evans will likely start in Oladipo's place again. Evans is averaging 9.4 points on 31.3 percent while playing about 24 minutes per game in Oladipo's absence.
Despite the lack of production from Evans in the starting backcourt, Pacers coach Nate McMillan reiterated they're not giving up on him starting while Oladipo continues to sit out.
"He's had some turnovers, some missed shots lately (but) we're not going to go away from him," McMillan told reporters after practice Wednesday. "Off the bench, he was doing some good things for us. Hopefully, he'll find his rhythm and start knocking down some of those shots."
The Pacers are averaging 107.8 points and shooting 48 percent since Oladipo started sitting out but Tuesday saw them get held under 100 points for the eighth time on a night when they shot 46.1 percent.
The Pacers allowed less than 90 points for the eighth time and held Chicago to 39.4 percent shooting. The Pacers are allowing 103.6 points in the last eight games and 102.1 overall, just behind Memphis for the league lead.
The version of the Magic that Indiana is facing is a team who has spent most of the season hovering around .500 mark and playing better since taking a 120-95 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 2. Despite taking a 124-118 overtime loss to Denver Wednesday, the Magic are 10-7 in their last 17 games.
In Orlando's first game of a stretch of nine out of 11 at home, Evan Fournier scored 26 while Nikola Vucevic totaled 24 points and 15 rebounds.
Orlando drilled 20 3-pointers in a game that featured 21 lead changes and 14 ties. The Magic forced overtime on a 3-pointer by Terrence Ross with 6.1 seconds remaining but missed all six shots in overtime and struggled to defend Denver's pick-and-roll offense with Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic.
"We've been good in close games," Orlando coach Steve Clifford said. "We've played the most close games in the league. They're considered crunch-time games (decided by) five (points) or less and we're 5-2. We've now played 16 games -- which is a lot -- within plus-or-minus five points in the last five minutes. We're 8-8 (in crunch-time games), so we've been really good in those all season."
While the Magic were disappointed with the outcome Wednesday, they'll also hope to avoid a 37-8 free throw disparity, leaving them at 30th in the league in free throw attempts.
"We're one of the teams that never complains and every time we say something, we get a technical," Fournier told reporters. "It's just terrible.
"Never stops, man. Of course, it's frustrating, man. We're fighting hard. It's OK to not get the calls, but sometimes it's just unfair. You can't have that. It's just not possible."
During Indiana's 15-game run of dominance in Orlando, five games have been decided by single-digits. In the last meeting on Jan. 27 in Indiana, the Pacers came back from a 21-point deficit for a 114-112 victory.