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Pacers end seven-game losing streak

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Updated 10 months ago on
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ORLANDO — The Indiana Pacers unveiled an unlikely hero Sunday night, reaching deep into their roster to snap a seven-game losing streak.

Rookie reserve forward Damjan Rudez scored 16 points in the fourth quarter, sparking the Pacers to a 106-99, come-from-behind victory over the Orlando Magic on Sunday night.

Rudez, from Croatia, finished with a career-high 18 points. He hit four 3-point baskets in the fourth quarter, quickly erasing a nine-point deficit that was threatening to bury the Pacers again.

“He sealed the deal for us,” veteran Pacers forward David West said. “You give him a clean look, he’s going to take advantage of it. We needed something like this to get us going again.”

West led the Pacers (16-30) with 20 points. Guards George Hill had 17 points and Rodney Stuckey 15 points. Center Roy Hibbert had 11 points, 13 rebounds and a big block in the final minute that helped preserve the win. Guard C.J. Watson had 11 points and eight assists.

Magic center Nikola Vucevic led the Magic with 27 points and seven rebounds. Guard Victor Oladipo had 18 points. Reserve forward Tobias Harris had 11 points. Rookie guard Elfrid Payton had 10 points and eight assists.

The Pacers, who never led by more than seven points, held a 47-33 rebound advantage. They also shot 51.8 percent (43 of 83) from the field.

The Pacers were the ninth consecutive team to score 100 points or more against the Magic (15-32), who lost their fifth consecutive game.

“We just had some breakdowns defensively. We were up nine and gave up an open three to Rudez, and that kind of started three or four more to follow,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. “The focus needs to be there for 48 minutes, and it wasn’t tonight.”

Payton tied the game at 95 with back-to-back baskets. Hill then hit back-to-back baskets to take the 101-97 lead the Pacers never lost. Rudez hit his final 3-pointer with 21 seconds remaining for the 105-99 lead.

“I’ve had games like this before, but not in the NBA,” Rudez said. “I’m out there just trying to prove I belong. As a rookie I have to be patient and be ready when my time comes. Tonight, they called on me, and it felt good.”

Rudez, who had two points in the first three periods, sparked the Pacers midway in the fourth quarter with 11 points in a five-minute stretch. He tied the game at 90 with a 3-pointer. He hit another 3-pointer for the 93-90 lead.

“We looked at our record before the game and said ‘We’re better than this.’ One shot, one loose ball, one good game, you have to think, it can turn things in your favor,” Rudez said. “As a shooter, one shot can get you going. The whole momentum changed.”

The Magic (15-32) had upped their lead to nine points when reserve guard Willie Green opened the fourth period with a back-door layup. They led 88-79 after a basket by Kyle O’Quinn.

The Magic led 82-75 going into the final period. Forward Channing Fry, who was scoreless in the first half, hit three of four shots for nine points in the third quarter.

“We don’t have any room to make mistakes,” Oladipo said. “It’s really tough right now, but we’re playing with good energy. We have to keep playing hard to give ourselves a chance to win.”

The Pacers led 51-49 at intermission, riding a hot-shooting and good-rebounding start. They hit 23 of 42 shots (54.8 percent) and held a 24-14 rebound edge, including five offensive rebounds that became eight points.

Vucevic had 15 points in the first half, including 10 in the first quarter when the Magic led by as many as seven points. West had 12 points and Hibbert nine rebounds by halftime.

The Pacers led by as many as six points in the second quarter after baskets by Hibbert and Hill.

NOTES: Both the Magic and Pacers came into the game struggling. The Pacers had lost seven consecutive games and the Magic four. … This is the first time since the 1988-89 season that the Pacers have had more than one seven-game losing streak in a single season. This was their second. … The Magic are ranked 22nd in the NBA defensively, but they have been even worse lately, allowing 100 points or more in nine consecutive games. … Catching much of the heat for the Pacers losing streak is C Roy Hibbert, who averaged just nine points and 6.4 rebounds during the seven-game fall. … Pacers coach Frank Vogel is insistent that the Pacers pick up the pace in trying to get back on track. “We need more randomness,” Vogel said. “We’re starting to get more stops on the defensive end. When you get stops, you can get out and attack defenses before they’re set.” … Magic rookie F Aaron Gordon got the first start of his NBA career Sunday night. Gordon, the No. 4 pick of the draft, had played 12, 12 and 13 minutes in the three previous games after returning from an early-season broken left foot.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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