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Nelson, Milicic help Orlando edge Pacers

Nov 23, 2006 - 3:01 AM ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- Darko Milicic looked like a polished veteran.

Jameer Nelson scored 22 points and Milicic scored nine of his 11 in the decisive fourth quarter as the Orlando Magic posted a 96-91 triumph over the Indiana Pacers.

Milicic has shown vast improvement in his fourth season. The second overall pick in the 2003 draft is averaging career highs in rebounds (5.2) and blocks (2.2). The Serbian native collected six rebounds and three blocks.

"All we want Darko to do is when he gets the ball down inside, is just go strong to the basket," Orlando coach Brian Hill said. "That's the only thing I really ask him to do is try and attack the basket and put pressure on the defender."

With Dwight Howard sitting on the bench with foul trouble, Milicic made his presence felt in the paint against Indiana All-Star forward Jermaine O'Neal.

He scored on several low-post moves, including a hook off the glass that gave Orlando an 81-77 lead with six minutes remaining.

"I just came into the game focused and just tried to stay aggressive and get good shots," Milicic said. "I feel really comfortable playing with these guys. In the fourth period, coach said, 'You've got to go strong every time.' I just came out in the second half and tried to go hard as I could."

Milicic and Grant Hill connected on consecutive jumpers as the Magic extended their advantage to 90-82 with 2 1/2 minutes to go. The Pacers never really threatened thereafter.

"I don't care if he (Darko) goes 0-for-10 as long as he plays like that," Grant Hill said. "If Darko can do what he did (in the fourth), it'll really help us."

Coming off consecutive 20-20 games, Howard had 16 points and 11 rebounds. He is averaging over 21 points and 18 rebounds in his last three games.

"Unbelievable," Indiana swingman Al Harrington said of Howard's development. "He's going to be a 12-time All-Star and all of that is in his future. He just needs to keep doing what he is doing."

Hill scored 14 points for the Magic, who shot 49 percent (34-of-69) from the field and ended a four-game slide in the series.

O'Neal had 23 points and 11 rebounds and Jamaal Tinsley sored 19 points for Indiana, which shot 40 percent (31-of-77).

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