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Hornets 101, Pacers 96: Indiana Dies Behind The 3-Point Line Despite Big Game From Hibbert

New Orleans took a chance Saturday night. With a gameplan centered around letting the Indiana Pacers set up camp around the 3-point line, the Hornets made it clear early that this game would be determined by the blue and gold's ability to drain the trey, or their ability to find other ways to score.

Unfortunately, the Pacers shot blanks instead of bullets.

From the tip-off, the Hornets played a loose perimeter defense, allowing Pacers players to easily get free for open 3-pointers. With the Pacers running a pick-and-roll offense for much of the first half, the Hornets doubled the dribbler after the pick, leaving the roller wide open on the arc. Without hesitation the Pacers' players launched the open shots. And the bricks clanked and chimed off the rims.

The Pacers ultimately made only 6-of-29 from 3-point land, effectively sealing their fate while also ending their 3-game losing winning streak with a 101-96 loss to the Hornets at Conseco "Reggie Miller" Fieldhouse.

But don't get me wrong, this was still a very winnable game despite the Pacers' atrocious outside shooting. The spirited play of Roy Hibbert led to a one-man wrecking crew inside, and the second-year center became the lone offensive weapon in the second half after it was clear the Pacers couldn't rely on finding their shot. Hibbert struggled boxing out David West and Emeka Okafor early, but Hibbert eventually adjusted to kept the Pacers in the game. He finished with a career-high 27 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. Hibbert displayed some power moves in the post tonight, but he was also aptly helped by point guards Earl Watson and A.J. Price, who both continually drove past an defensively-uninterested Chris Paul to find Hibbert waiting on the block for an open dunk or lay-up.

Hibbert also kept the Pacers close in the fourth quarter. After the Hornets built a seven-point lead to start the fourth stanza, Hibbert dropped eight points to help close the gap to four with more than four minutes remaining. But the center wouldn't shoot again the rest of the way and was sitting on the bench during the final minute. Instead of going into the post, the Pacers went back outside by trying to rely on an ice-cold Danny Granger to carry the way. Granger scored only his sixth point of the game with 3:37 remaining in the game. He made his next three, but missed a chance to bring the Pacers within three with 54 seconds remaining.

The Pacers blew one last chance to close the gap to three with 30 seconds remaining. The Pacers swung the ball around the perimeter to Price on the right elbow, but instead of completing the swing to a wide-open Mike Dunleavy in the corner, Price kept the ball, dribbled into traffic and threw up a contested 3-point attempt that missed badly and effectively sealed the loss after Paul drained two free throws.

Five of the last six shot attempts came from 3-point land for the Pacers. It was a fitting way to end this game. Live or die with the three. Tonight, the Pacers were dead and buried. More observations after the jump.

The arena was full of Colts' blue tonight (well, half of the arena was full of Colts' blue. The other half was the color of green chairs). I was surprised at how many Colts fans stayed until the fourth quarter. I figured it would be a flood of Peyton Manning jerseys heading toward the exits at halftime, but the arena really didn't start draining until a few minutes left in the game. But it was definitely difficult for the cameras to catch fans in their Pacer garb, so much so that they came to the second level to put me and my Tyler Hansbrough jersey on the jumbotron, thus allowing me to make my fourth career appearance on the big board. Yep, it was a big night.
  • Maybe it was Chris Paul's lack of aggressiveness on defense, but Earl Watson really took advantage early by going around Paul quite easily and hitting the paint for easy dishes to Hibbert. But after the Pacers ditched the pick-and-roll after halftime, the point guards didn't break Paul quite as easily. And Paul saved most of his energy for the other end. He finished with 22 points, 11 assists and eight boards, just missing the coveted triple-double.
  • I mentioned above that Granger didn't score his sixth point until the three-minute mark of the fourth quarter. Not a good game for the star tonight. He may not be ready to come off a big back-to-back yet. He logged 36 minutes tonight, but only made 4-of-13 shots, while also turning the ball over three times with no assists. Tough night for #33.
  • David West, who added 24 points, picked a good night to give Troy Murphy all the room in the world for open shots. As noted earlier, the Hornets played the pick-and-roll by doubling the dribbler and not going back at all to contest the wide-open receiver. So whenever Murphy was setting the pick, he received the ball at the 3-point line, and typical Murphy-style, refused to drive the ball and just launched treys as West crashed the boards instead of closing the gap. The strategy worked as Murphy was off all night. He finished with just six points on 2-of-9 shooting.
  • Hansbrough only logged four minutes in the first half before being pulled for the remainder of the game. He got to the free-throw line twice in that time, but he wasn't stopping West, Okafor or any other Hornet from chasing down rebounds. Not sure if he didn't enter again because of injury reasons or because he was sucking. Could go either way.
  • Brandon Rush received the start tonight at shooting guard as Luther Head sat this one out with an ankle injury. Rush dropped in seven points, but Dunleavy struggled mightily in his role off the bench, going 0-for-5 from beyond-the-arc.
  • Neither team led by more than five points in the first half and there were 11 ties and 10 lead changes.
  • THE FANS HAVE SPOKEN: I haven't attended as many games as I've wanted this season, but one of my favorite things is hearing other fans' thoughts on the game, especially if those fans haven't been to a game since Jeff Foster was a rookie. Here are several very real quotes spoken by the fans around me in the FedEx Fan Zone tonight.
  • Man: "I'm not attending another game until they bring back the IndyCar noises. This was no fun at all." Valid point.
  • Man #2, to a neighbor: "So, whatever happened to Austin Croshere? I really thought he would become an All-Star at some point."
  • And receiving first place for the night -- [Rik Smits, sitting courtside, appears on the jumbotron] Woman: "Why is everybody cheering for that guy?" Man: "Hmm, that's Larry Bird. He owns the team."