Pacers return home looking to bounce back defensively against Magic

The Orlando Magic have been the picture of inconsistency.

Per the most recent example, the Magic earned an impressive eight-point victory at Boston Sunday night, then went backward by losing to struggling Sacramento by six points at Orlando on Tuesday night. The Magic (14-33), who play at Indiana (26-23) Saturday night, have not won two games in a row since Nov. 8 and 10.

“We need to see a lot more from guys, leadership, consistency in their play, toughness,” Magic coach Frank Vogel told the Magic team website. “We have to guard our own man, OK? We have to guard our own man. We have to ring to the defensive end. I’m very disappointed in the defensive performance.”

Elfrid Payton said defensive improvement is the main issue.

“Honestly, I think we have enough offensively, but we’ve got to dig in on the defensive end,” Payton said. “We show flashes of it, but we’ve got to be consistent with it. It’s never going to be perfect, but we’ve got to have better stretches for longer stretches on that end of the floor for things to change for us.”

The Magic have been hampered by center Nikola Vucevic’s left hand injury. Vucevic, who had surgery Dec. 26, has been cleared for individual drills but not full-contact drills.

“It’s very tough sitting on the sidelines,” Vucevic told the Orlando Sentinel. “For me, it’s never been this long. Just watching the game each time, it’s like ‘Ugh, I want to be there.'”

The Pacers lost to host Cleveland 115-108 Friday night to finish with a 3-1 record against the Cavaliers this season. Indiana gave up a season-high 73 points in the first half, trailing by 13 at halftime. Pacers trailed by 17 after three quarters but got as close as five points in the fourth quarter.

“We knew this team would come out aggressive and we didn’t establish ourselves in that first half,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “We were able to do a better job defensively as well as offensively in the second half.”

Victor Oladipo had a team-high 25 points for the Pacers, who shot 47 percent for the game.

Pacers forward Bojan Bogdanovic was 3-for-5 on 3-pointers in Wednesday’s victory over Phoenix. However, Bogdanovic was 1-of-6 against Cleveland.

“I just got to believe in myself,” Bogdanovic said of his recent 3-point struggles. “I’m working hard so I hope I am going to start hitting shots.”

Bogdanovic said defense has been the key to the Pacers’ success.

“We talk great on defense and we have five mobile big men so that’s key,” Bogdanovic said.

Pacers forward Thaddeus Young has been in double figures for 10 consecutive games. A few weeks ago, McMillan had encouraged Young to look to score more.

“I’m still unselfish, I tend to try to get other guys shots,” Young said. “At the end of the day, it’s about playing for one another and having fun.”

Pacers center Myles Turner missed his ninth consecutive game Friday with a right elbow injury. Turner started practicing earlier this week but is questionable for the game with Orlando.

Domantas Sabonis has been starting in Turner’s spot.

Rookie forward T.J. Leaf also sat out the game at Cleveland after injuring his right ankle against Phoenix.

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