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Stephenson continues strong play in victory

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Lance Stephenson might not be an All-Star, but he is rapidly becoming the all-everything player for the Indiana Pacers. He has the double-doubles, and triple-doubles, to prove it.

The most dynamic player on the court, Stephenson had 15 points, 12 rebounds and five assists to help lead the Pacers to a 98-79 win Monday night against the visiting Orlando Magic.

Passed over last week for the All-Star Game, Stephenson has a team-leading 15 double-doubles and is the NBA’s triple-doubles leader with four. He has recorded a double-double in seven of the past nine games.

Perhaps even more encouraging for the Pacers (37-10) than Stephenson’s contributions, which they have come to expect, was the play of Danny Granger, who led a strong effort by the bench.

Having struggled in recent games, Granger broke out of his slump with a team- and season-high 16 points. He made 5 of 9 shots from the field, including 3 of 5 three-point attempts and had four rebounds in 24 solid minutes.

“It was just a matter of me getting in rhythm,” Granger said. “I’m finally healthy and making steps, and tonight is just another one.”

Backup point guard C.J. Watson had 12 points for the Pacers, and backup forward Luis Scola had 10. Reserve center Ian Mahinmi added seven points, as Indiana’s second unit matched the starters’ offensive output with 49 points. The total was also a season-high for the bench.

The backup production was welcome on a night when only two starters, Stephenson and Paul George, reached double figures. George, who has struggled from the field the past five games, had 15 points on 5 of 12 shooting.

In his previous four games, George — the NBA’s ninth-leading scorer heading into Monday — had averaged 16 points per game, nearly seven below his season average, on 29 percent shooting from the field.

But the backups picked up the slack.

“It goes back to passing. Once you move the ball, you get a lot more open shots,” Granger said. “We’ve been trying to do it by ourselves these last 10 or 12 games, and our offense has kind of been struggling.

“So we move the ball, we get layups, back-door cuts, open threes. That makes everybody look good.”

Despite soft offensive production from their starters, the Pacers led the entire way but didn’t take control until fourth quarter. Orlando (13-37), which has the second-worst record in the NBA, closed to 60-58 with 7:01 to play in the third period but would get no closer.

Indiana outscored the Magic 23-16 in the final quarter, enjoying a 24-point lead on two occasions. The Pacers gave up only 29 points in the second half, tying a season-low for a half by an opponent.

Only three Orlando players reached double figures. Arron Afflalo had a game-high 20 points, followed by Nikola Vucevic with 16 and Tobia Harris with 11.

Former Indiana University Victor Oladipo had six points and a game-high 11 assists. Loudly cheered by a Bankers Life Fieldhouse crowd of 16,266 when introduced as a starter, he had scored 12 points against the Pacers in his rookie debut in a season-opening loss on Oct. 29, 2013.

Oladipo, who has started 31 games and averages 13.8 ppg, was 2 off from the field in second go-round against the Pacers.

Indiana returns to action tonight at Atlanta.

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