Granger, Pacers muzzle high-powered MagicFeb 7, 2009 - 4:39 AM INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- If the Indiana Pacers can salvage anything from the 2008-09 season, it's that they played their best against the best. That trend continued Friday night.
Danny Granger scored 33 points to lead the Pacers to a 107-102 victory over the high-powered Orlando Magic.
The Pacers have played well against the league's top teams, defeating the Magic, Lakers and Celtics and taking L.A. and the Cleveland Cavaliers to the brink on a pair of other occasions.
"I have yet to figure it out," Granger said of the Pacers' strong play against the elite teams and their disappointing play against some of the league's mediocre clubs. "I guess we might be a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-type team. We just show two different teams on any given night."
After suffering a 24-point blowout to Orlando on January 27, the Pacers held control for most of the night in this one but could never create much of a cushion. After Orlando failed to capitalize on its opportunities down the stretch, T.J. Ford, Mike Dunleavy and Granger combined to hit five free throws over the last 19 seconds of the contest to seal the win.
"It's a long game and they're one of the best teams in the NBA, so you know they're not going to give up," Ford said. "They made a run and we were able to keep our composure."
The Magic, the league's best 3-point shooting team, came out firing once again, but even their most dangerous weapon couldn't save. Hedo Turkoglu came up short on two late attempts from the arc as the Pacers snapped a three-game skid.
"We came out with a fire in our eyes and continued to play the whole game," Pacers forward Troy Murphy said. "This was a very important game for us to win."
Dwight Howard put together his fifth 20-20 performance of the season, leading the Magic with 21 points to go with 20 boards, though he was blocked seven times and went just 5-of-12 from the foul line.
"He's obviously strong and aggressive and very talented down low, so you try to hold your base and stay low and get him off his comfort area," said Pacers center Roy Hibbert, who helped contribute to the defensive effort on Howard. "Sometimes you stand there in awe and shock, but you have a job to do."
In their second game since losing All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson - possibly for the rest of the season - the Magic couldn't survive. Fill-in Anthony Johnson more than picked up the slack in Wednesday's 125-96 rout of the Los Angeles Clippers, going for 25 points and knocking down six 3-pointers. But he couldn't repeat the performance in this one, managing just eight points and two assists.
"We can't hang our heads. We have to step up," Howard said of losing Nelson. "We've got to step up on the defensive end, guys have to step up shooting the ball. We've just got to play."
Turkoglu took the reins as Orlando's creator on offense, dishing out a season-high 11 assists to go with 20 points. He was the catalyst in the early fourth quarter as the Magic fought back into contention.
"We should have had more energy than they had," Turkoglu said. "We had a few comebacks, but in the end, we couldn't stop them."
He found Tony Battie on the wing for a 16-footer and connected with Rashard Lewis for a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 87-83. Just over a minute later, he buried a pair of free throws to pull the Magic even, 87-87.
Howard carried the load for the bulk of the final session, scoring eight straight points for Orlando, only to see the Pacers answer right back after almost every bucket.
Turkoglu's mid-range jumper pulled Orlando back to within three, 102-99, at the 1:40 mark, but the veteran forward's heroics finally met their limit with time winding down. After Jarrett Jack misfired for Indiana, Turkoglu grabbed the board, sauntered quickly up the court and pulled up from the arc at the top of the key, but the shot banged off the inside of the rim.
With 14 seconds remaining and Indiana's lead up to four, Turkoglu was off-target from the arc once again and the Pacers held on.
"Awful effort on our guys' part," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We didn't deserve to win. I'm perplexed by the lack of effort of our team."
Even without Nelson - who is third on the team with 4.3 3-point attempts per contest - the Magic continued to fire away from long range, going 11-of-32 (34 percent). Reserve guard J.J. Redick provided a lift off the bench, scoring 17 points on 4-of-7 shooting, but also committed a damaging offensive foul with 38 seconds when he elbowed fellow Duke alum Dunleavy in a three-point game.
Ford scored 21 points for Indiana and Murphy added 20 and eight boards.
INDIANA 107 FINAL
Feb 6 9:35 PM
INDIANA 80 END, 3RD QTR
Feb 6 8:49 PM
INDIANA 61 HALFTIME
Feb 6 8:12 PM
INDIANA 32 END, 1ST QTR
Feb 6 7:39 PM
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