INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -The Orlando Magic are finishing the regular season with a kick.
Vince Carter scored 21 points to help Orlando beat the Indiana Pacers 118-98 on Monday night for their fifth straight win.
Jameer Nelson had 15 points, eight assists and seven rebounds and Rashard Lewis scored 14 points for the Magic. Matt Barnes had 13 points and 11 rebounds and Dwight Howard added 12 points and 11 rebounds for Orlando, which will play Charlotte in the first round of the playoffs.
Indiana coach Jim O'Brien, whose Pacers have played their best ball of the season over the past few weeks, saw his team get overwhelmed by a squad he thinks could return to the finals for a second straight season.
``Orlando is a superior basketball team in every sense of the word,' he said. ``They'll be a tough out for anybody in the playoffs. They will possibly be there at the end this year.'
A.J. Price scored 19 points and Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy added 18 for the Pacers in their home finale. Indiana had won four straight and 10 of 12 overall.
Perhaps the worst part of Indiana's recent success was that it got Orlando's attention.
``We know that they are a very tough team at home, and that they have been playing very well here of late,' Barnes said. ``They are a very talented scoring team that can shoot the ball and present a lot of matchup problems.'
Orlando outscored Indiana 32-16 at the free throw line and outrebounded the Pacers 67-44.
The Magic remained in tune without exerting much. Howard and Nelson played 26 minutes and Carter played 31.
``The main thing is just getting ready for the playoffs,' Howard said. ``We've been doing an excellent job the last couple of games of focusing on the small things to make us better.'
Orlando led 42-18 at the end of the first quarter. It was the most points Indiana has allowed in any quarter this season. The Magic shot 56.5 percent in the period.
Orlando played at Cleveland on Sunday, so Magic coach Stan Van Gundy didn't expect the quick start.
``Our guys' focus tonight was great,' he said. ``I was a little worried in the locker room before the game. We seemed tired. I was surprised by our energy early in the game.'
Indiana rallied in the second quarter and cut its deficit to nine before Nelson hit a 3-pointer and a free throw line jumper in the final minute of the half to give Orlando a 65-51 lead at the break.
The Magic rebuilt their lead in the third quarter by shutting the Pacers down. Indiana shot 8 for 23 in the quarter, and Orlando led 90-70 at the end of the period. Indiana's Roy Hibbert, a 7-foot-2 center, provided a highlight with a 3-pointer out of the right corner as time expired in the quarter.
Other than that, it was all Orlando and its stingy defense in the third.
``We came out aggressive on the defensive end, got stops when we needed and scored,' Howard said.
Orlando continued to roll in the fourth quarter. Hibbert hit another 3-pointer in the fourth quarter to give the few remaining Pacers fans something to cheer about.
The 20-point loss wasn't the image the Pacers wanted to leave for the fans.
``No excuses,' Pacers forward Troy Murphy said. ``We just didn't have it tonight from start to finish.'
Orlando has the league's second-best record and would have homecourt in the finals against any Western Conference team with a victory Wednesday against Philadelphia.
``I know we don't like to look ahead, but if we're fortunate to win the Eastern Conference, we definitely want to have homecourt advantage in the finals,' Barnes said. ``We have one game left. We just need to stay strong, play like we did tonight, and we control our destiny.'
NOTES: Reb Porter is retiring after 34 years as Pacers public address announcer. ... Pacers assistant coach Dick Harter also will retire at the end of this season. ... Murphy was issued a technical foul in the first quarter for arguing that he didn't make contact when called for fouling Barnes. Granger also got a technical at the end of the quarter. ... Carter moved into 42nd place on the NBA scoring list, surpassing Terry Cummings.
The Associated Press News Service
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