Fresh off snapping a seven-game losing streak, the Indiana Pacers hit the road on Wednesday to face the Orlando Magic in the second leg of a back-to-back set.
Indiana rallied from a 21-point deficit and outscored the visiting Chicago Bulls 36-23 in the fourth quarter en route to a 116-110 win on Tuesday.
The victory was the Pacers’ first since Jan. 8, as well as their first since point guard Tyrese Haliburton sustained elbow and knee injuries on Jan. 11 in the first game of their skid.
“I feel like a lot of teams in our position would have probably put their head down and said, ‘Here we go again,'” Pacers guard T.J. McConnell said following a 20-point, 10-assist performance on Tuesday. “But we’ve been saying it all year: We don’t quit. This team has a ton of fight.”
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle made recent tweaks to the lineup, including moving McConnell into the starting lineup to fill Haliburton’s spot at point guard. McConnell recorded a triple-double of 18 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds in his first start on Saturday against the Phoenix Suns.
After three games scoring below his season average of 17.5 points while in the starting lineup, rookie Bennedict Mathurin has come off the bench in each of the past three games. He matched Myles Turner with a team-high 26 points on Tuesday, 15 of which came in the fourth quarter.
“Everybody’s got to be ready to play, everybody’s got to be ready to step up,” Mathurin told Bally Sports Indiana in his postgame interview. “Tyrese is a big part of this team, (but) we have to be ready to play and go on the court with confidence.”
Just as Indiana aims to flip from a losing skid to a winning streak, the Magic are seeking their first back-to-back wins in over a month.
Orlando dominated the NBA-leading Boston Celtics on Monday, 113-98, behind a balanced offensive effort and stifling defensive performance.
The Magic held Boston to 36-of-83 shooting from the floor (43.4 percent) and forced 18 turnovers. Gary Harris, Cole Anthony and Jonathan Isaac were responsible for six of those turnovers with two steals each.
Isaac — playing in his first game since sustaining his second serious knee injury in seven months at the NBA bubble in August 2020 — also scored 10 points in less than 10 minutes off the bench.
“That kind of first wind got to me. That last minute I could barely talk I was breathing so hard,” Isaac said of reacclimating. “But the second rotation in the second half, that four minutes, I started to just relax and just feel good.”
Anthony scored 18 points in a reserve role, and Orlando improved to 10-4 this season when he has scored 13 or more points.
“Just getting into a rhythm,” Anthony said. “A lot of credit to my teammates, man. Honestly, I had some pretty easy buckets just because they’re doing a great job of finding me. I’m just trying to run the floor for them.”
Franz Wagner was among the Orlando players distributing the ball against the Celtics, doling out six assists to go with seven rebounds and 15 points.
Rookie Paolo Banchero is the Magic’s leading scorer at 20.7 points per game, while Franz Wagner — who is averaging 20.4 points per game — has scored 20-plus points in seven of his past 10 appearances.