The Magic and Indiana Pacers aim to remain unbeaten during the NBA’s restart at the other’s expense on Tuesday when they meet near Orlando.
Indiana (41-26) opened play in the Orlando area on Saturday with a 127-121 win over Philadelphia before routing the Washington Wizards two days later in a 111-100 matinee.
T.J. Warren scored 34 points in Monday’s win, an encore to his 53-point eruption on 20-of-29 shooting in the defeat of the 76ers. The 87 combined points are tied for the second-most scored over two games in franchise history.
“That’s just T.J.,” Aaron Holiday said in his postgame teleconference with FOX Sports Indiana. “I know we (can) get a good 20-30 points out of him every night, and I know it’s possible (to get) 50-60 (points). It’s nothing new. He’s been doing it all year.”
Warren picked up the slack with Victor Oladipo scratched for a scheduled rest, as well as the absence Domantas Sabonis, who left the bubble due to a foot injury on July 24.
Orlando (32-35) built lopsided leads in both of its first two games during the restart, before cruising in the fourth quarter against both the Brooklyn Nets and Sacramento Kings.
Friday’s 128-118 victory over Brooklyn gave Orlando a half-game lead for the Eastern Conference’s No. 7 seed. Another Washington loss also moved the Magic closer to avoiding a play-in game at the conclusion of the two-week seeding round.
Each conference’s ninth-place team can force a play-in if it is within a four-game margin of the No. 8 seed. Orlando currently leads Washington by 7.5 games.
Despite rolling in its first two games, Orlando’s start was not without loss.
Jonathan Isaac tore the ACL in his left knee in Sunday’s 132-116 rout of Sacramento, coming down hard while penetrating into the lane.
“That was tough man, that one brought me to tears instantly, just because I know how good of a guy J.I. is,” Magic forward Aaron Gordon told the team’s website. “I know how hard he works and how hard he has worked to get back since hurting himself in D.C. [on Jan. 1].”
Isaac sustained a hyperextended left knee on New Year’s Day and missed the next 2 1/2 months up until the COVID-19 pandemic put the NBA season on hiatus.
Isaac’s loss impacts Orlando’s depth, but the Magic have flourished through their first two seeding games with a balanced look. Three players scored more than 20 points on Sunday, including Terrence Ross with 25 off the bench.
Nikola Vucevic hit for 22 and 23 points in Orlando’s first two games in the bubble, and Markelle Fultz provided early energy off the bench on Sunday. He scored nine of his first 14 points in the opening quarter.
Fultz said in a teleconference last week the layoff from March provided him with a needed opportunity to recharge.
“After the All-Star break, my body was kind of tired, being so that was the first time I played that long,” he said. “So right now, I actually feel really good. I think it’s just a matter of just getting those reps up in a game and I don’t think I’m far.”
Likewise, Indiana guard Malcolm Brogdon was sidelined when the hiatus began. He also missed the Pacers’ bubble debut after testing positive for COVID-19 in late June. He returned on Monday to score 20 points with seven rebounds and a team-high six assists.
–Field Level Media