Pacers, Magic carry losing streaks into matchup
The Indiana Pacers are still searching for their first victory since losing guard Victor Oladipo to injury last week.
A good time to get one might be Thursday night in Orlando, where the Magic's frustration level is rising with multiple failures in close games damaging the team's postseason hopes.
The Pacers don't have concerns about making the playoffs, but they might be worried about their status among the Eastern Conference's elite after falling 107-89 to the Wizards on Wednesday night in Washington. It was Indiana's third consecutive loss since Oladipo sustained a season-ending torn right quadriceps tendon.
Indiana, which is 7-7 this season when Oladipo is out of the lineup, dropped into fourth in the Eastern Conference at 32-18 after the Wednesday defeat. It was the opening game of the Pacers' four-game road trip.
"Low energy right now," Indiana coach Nate McMillan told reporters after the game. "We've kind of lost our way here and we gotta find it.
"Vic is not coming back. We have to move past that and not look at what we don't have and focus on what we do have. We have to get more energy in the game."
Further complicating matters for the Pacers is that guard Tyreke Evans has missed the past two games due to lower back soreness. Edmond Sumner, a recent call-up from the G League, has shot a combined 3 of 17 as a fill-in starter in losses to the Golden State Warriors on Monday and the Wizards on Wednesday.
Indiana is now riding its first three-game losing streak of the season.
The Magic, meanwhile, have lost four in a row and seven of eight. They are taking no comfort in coming close.
According to NBA.com, they lead the league in playing close games -- defined by a score that is within five points over the final minutes -- with 30.
Orlando is only 13-17 in those games and is coming off another one that didn't go its way. On Tuesday against the visiting Thunder, the Magic were up by three with 9:05 to play and down by just five with 2:35 to go before Oklahoma City emerged with a 126-117 win.
Center Nikola Vucevic couldn't save the Magic on Tuesday despite 27 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and two blocked shots.
"It's kind of the story of our season -- we don't maintain what works for us for 48 minutes," Vucevic said. "It's very disappointing and very tough to deal with. A week ago, we were right there (in the playoff chase), and now it's a much bigger hole that we've got ourselves into.
"If we were going out there and getting blown out by teams, we'd be like, 'All right, we just don't have it.' But it's really stuff we should be able to take care of, but we don't do it consistently. There have been so many games where we've had the lead and controlled the game and we've let it slip. So, it's frustrating."
Orlando (20-31) is 4 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot in the East.
On Thursday, the Magic will look to take advantage of a tired opponent that is coming off a rough outing.
Indiana produced its lowest point total of the season Wednesday. The Pacers generally have been able to rely on being one of the league's top defensive teams, although the Wizards carved up that defense for 52.6 percent field-goal shooting.
"They're quick. They're long. They have very good principles. Very well-coached," Orlando coach Steve Clifford said of Indiana. "They start the game with a good defensive team, and then when they sub, they're still good defensively."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 31, 2019