Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 3)

Series starts 11/2

Game 1: Wednesday, November 2nd
Game 2: Monday, March 13th
Game 3: Wednesday, April 19th

Magic 83

(36-46, 10-31 away)

Pacers 89

(41-41, 27-14 home)

Coverage: FSMW

7:00 PM ET, April 19, 2006

Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

1 2 3 4 T
ORL 13 24 21 2583
IND 23 18 31 1789

Top Performers

Orl: T. Ariza 13 Pts, 12 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl

Ind: J. O'Neal 24 Pts, 13 Reb, 2 Ast, 6 Blk

Pacers clinch sixth spot in East

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Underachievers for much of the season, the Indiana Pacers look dangerous heading into the playoffs.

The Pacers beat the Orlando Magic 89-83 on Wednesday night for their fifth win in six games. Indiana (41-41) will open the postseason Sunday afternoon at Atlantic Division champion New Jersey.

Jermaine O'Neal had 24 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks to help the Pacers claim the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. As recently as a week ago, it looked as if Indiana might miss the playoffs. The Pacers barely avoided their first losing season since 1997.

"I just think it really took for us to hit rock bottom to really realize we weren't going to give ourselves an opportunity to excel and be fair to this franchise and this city," O'Neal said.

The strong finish has the Pacers thinking big.

"I still believe this team has a lot of potential, and if we play to our capabilities we can be fine," forward Peja Stojakovic said.

O'Neal has been back from a torn left groin for a month after missing 24 games. He has averaged 25 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in the Pacers' last five games.

"I'm going to try to continue to build, and continue to be effective," he said. "I'm finally to the point where I can say I'm healthy. My groin is not an issue. It is 100 percent, I don't have any of the fluid inside my leg that was really hindering me from being mobile."

Stephen Jackson finished with 22 points, Stojakovic had 17 and Jeff Foster added nine points and 10 rebounds for Indiana. The Pacers outrebounded the Magic 54-37 and held Orlando to 36-percent shooting.

Orlando (36-46) finished the season with two straight losses after an eight-game winning streak. The Magic won 16 of their final 22 games after a slow start to give them slight playoff hopes entering the final weeks of the season.

Carlos Arroyo scored 17 points, Keyon Dooling added 15 and Trevor Ariza had season highs of 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Magic.

The Pacers held Dwight Howard in check. Orlando's top scorer and rebounder had averaged 21.2 points and 15.8 rebounds in his last five games, but he was limited to 10 points and seven boards.

Orlando missed 11 of its first 12 shots, and Indiana held the Magic to 5-for-21 shooting from the field in the first quarter as the Pacers led 23-13 at the end of the period. The fact that Orlando was out of the playoff hunt might have contributed to its lackluster start.

"It was definitely an empty feeling coming into the game knowing we had no chance for the playoffs," Howard said. "My heart really sank."

The Magic cut Indiana's lead to 41-37 at halftime. O'Neal had 11 points and nine rebounds at the break.

Orlando got within 45-43 early in the third quarter, but the Pacers responded with a 9-2 run that included five points from Jackson to pull ahead 57-47 midway through the period.

The Pacers led 72-58 at the end of the third quarter, but Orlando cut Indiana's lead to 87-83 on a layup by Arroyo with 1:34 left. The Magic failed to score on their final three possessions.

Orlando is looking forward to next season with a young nucleus that starts with Howard.

"I can't wait," Howard said. "Everybody on this team is a hard worker, and I'm sure they're going to work to get better as individuals."

Now the Pacers can focus on the Nets, a team they beat two out of three times this season. Indiana forward Austin Croshere said the Pacers have a lot to prove after falling short of expectations during the regular season.

"It's an opportunity to show the national media that our reality is a little closer to the way we played the last six games."

Game notes

Howard was the only player in the NBA to grab more than 1,000 rebounds this season. ... Orlando forward Hedo Turkoglu did not play. Stacey Augmon started in his place. ... Indiana's Foster played after missing three games with a sore lower back. ... Indiana center Scot Pollard was issued a technical foul with 3:08 left in the third quarter after arguing a call. ... O'Neal had nine of Indiana's 17 turnovers.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 83 89
FGM-FGA 32-88 (.364) 31-71 (.437)
3PM-3PA 3-8 (.375) 5-16 (.313)
FTM-FTA 16-22 (.727) 22-30 (.733)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 17-37 20-54
Assists 8 13
Turnovers 10 17
Steals 10 4
Blocks 4 11
Fast Break Points 15 4
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 26 (1/0) 24 (2/0)
Largest Lead 2 17

Top Performers

Trevor Ariza Ariza
Points: 13
Reb: 12
Ast: 2
Stl: 2
Blk: 0
Jermaine O'Neal O'Neal
Points: 24
Reb: 13
Ast: 2
Stl: 0
Blk: 6