Pacers' balance carries the day, win third straight

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- The Indiana Pacers' playoff push is off to
a great start.

Barely missing a beat despite a week's layoff for the All-Star
game, the Pacers routed the Orlando Magic 108-84 on Tuesday night.

"What happened for us tonight is we played really good defense
and really good offense," said Jermaine O'Neal, who scored 20
points in 22 minutes. "That's a deadly combination. If we can get
both sides of the court going for us, we're a tough team to beat."

The Pacers, winners of three straight and six of eight, moved
percentage points ahead of Philadelphia for the East's final
playoff berth.

"Orlando's a quality team, and ahead of us in the standings,"
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "We've got to build on this."

Indiana shot 50 percent and had six players score in double
figures en route to its largest margin of victory this season.

Fred Jones scored 18 points, Stephen Jackson had 13, and Jeff
Foster added 12 points and 11 rebounds for his 13th double-double.

Jamaal Tinsley, returning from a foot injury, had 11 points and
six assists. He missed all but 2 minutes of the previous eight

"I don't think he's 100 percent but he's giving us what he can
give us," Carlisle said. "He showed that even at less than full
capacity he's still a major player on our team."

Added O'Neal: "Having our floor general out there is always

Anthony Johnson had 10 points.

On defense, the Pacers held the Magic to 38 percent shooting by
shutting down their playmakers. Orlando's leading scorers, Steve
Francis and Grant Hill, combined for 20 points while missing 18 of
25 shots.

But the Magic might have bigger problems than losing five of
eight, capped by their worst loss of the season.

Earlier Tuesday, the team fined Francis an undisclosed amount
for missing a practice after he failed to catch his flight from
Houston on Monday.

"The fact that a key player wasn't there, it was a distraction.
There's no getting around that," Orlando coach Johnny Davis said.

Francis didn't blame going AWOL for his horrific game: six
points on 2-of-10 shooting; four turnovers against two rebounds and
an assist. An apology wasn't coming either.

"That was something that happened. It was personal reasons,"
said Francis, who celebrated his 28th birthday Monday. "I've been
fined before."

"I'm not worried about it one bit."

The Magic opened the game 1-for-18, missing 15 straight shots,
and fell behind 18-5. Only turnovers kept Indiana from further
establishing control.

Orlando briefly showed some life, making five straight shots to
rally with 13 consecutive points. Jameer Nelson had two baskets in
the run, and he later scored nine straight points, with his jumper
putting the Magic up 30-27. In that run, the Pacers missed nine
consecutive tries.

Jameer finished with 15 -- 13 in the first half.

That's when Indiana took over. Over the next 17 minutes,
spanning halftime, the Pacers went on a 59-20 tear.

Even more impressive, the first part of the run came without any
help from O'Neal. After a third foul sent him to the bench with
6:53 left before the break, Indiana collected itself, then rolled
off the half's last 17 points.

With 54 seconds left in the third quarter, Indiana held a
29-point lead and was never threatened again. The margin twice
reached 31 in the fourth quarter.

"It's the first time we've had a chance to get a big win on
somebody," Jackson said. "It's definitely a great way to start
the second half of the season. I pray to God we can keep it up."

Game notes
The Magic had lost only four of the previous 14 times in
the first game after the All-Star break, including a 10-2 mark at
home. ... O'Neal picked up a technical foul for arguing late in the
first quarter. ... Hedo Turkoglu also was hit with a technical for
complaining in the third quarter.