Pacers top Magic 97-87 in season opener
Paul George scored 24 points, and Roy Hibbert added 16 rebounds and seven blocks, leading the Indiana Pacers to a 97-87 victory over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night.
The two-man tandem looked every bit as dominant in the season opener as they did leading the Pacers (1-0) to the Eastern Conference finals last season.
George's buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter gave Indiana a 69-64 lead and sparked the decisive 17-4 run to open the fourth.
"Our defense in the third quarter and into the fourth quarter was really exceptional," said Pacers head coach Frank Vogel.
Hibbert nearly matched his career-high for rebounds (17) in the first half. He had eight points but left the game midway through the fourth quarter after injuring his knee in a spill underneath his own basket. Team officials said it was not serious and he could have returned.
"He's fine. He landed awkwardly, twisted his knee a little bit," Vogel said. "He was available to return, he'll play tomorrow."
But it was George's 3 that provided the spark Indiana needed to seize control.
Victor Oladipo, the ex-Hoosiers star and No. 2 overall draft pick, had 12 points and three turnovers for the Magic (0-1).
Fans gave Oladipo a warm reception in his return to his adopted home state. More than 90 minutes before tipoff, one section near the court was almost full of fans decked out in Indiana University colors or fans wearing new Magic jerseys.
And though Oladipo didn't start Tuesday night, the crowd gave him a rousing standing ovation when he first entered the game midway through the first quarter.
For the Pacers, it was a ragged start to a big season.
Indiana committed 20 turnovers and struggled to take control against a team that had the worst record in the league last season.
Eventually, though, the Pacers' rebuilt bench turned the game.
Ronnie Price's 12-foot jumper with 6.1 seconds left in the third trimmed the Pacers' lead to 65-64. But Orlando was whistled for delay of game, David West made the free throw and George hit the 3 to close out the third.
The backups took the cue, scoring the first 15 Indiana points in the fourth to make it 84-68.
Orlando never challenged again.
Lance Stephenson finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Pacers.
The Magic were led by Andrew Nicholson, who scored all 18 of his points in the first half. Maurice Harkless added 14 and Jameer Nelson had 12 as the Magic shot 38.7 percent from the field.
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