For the first three quarters, the Charlotte Hornets controlled the flow against the Indiana Pacers, but the game took a turn in Indiana's favor early in the fourth. A sluggish start to the quarter allowed Indiana to use a 7-0 run to create a back-and-forth battle, but for all the good the Pacers did in the fourth, they couldn't do enough to contain Kemba Walker, who scored nine of his 22 in the final five minutes, including the eventual game winning layup with two seconds remaining.
Walker wasn't the only Hornet the Pacers couldn't contain. Charlotte controlled things in a big part thanks to Marvin Williams, who had a team high 26, hitting five three pointers, many of them coming against Myles Turner. Turner got a lot of lessons tonight as part of his 15 points, taking his lumps on the defensive end against the tested veteran Williams from three point range.
For the second straight game against the Pacers, the Hornets were lights out from deep. They hit 12 against Indiana earlier this month and tonight, they had 11, but eight of those came between Williams and Walker. For the Pacers, their fourth quarter defense helped them make a game of it, but they were ever able to pair taking the lead with getting a subsequent stop. Their biggest fourth quarter lead of two was immediately shot away by a Walker three.
Along with Turner, George Hill and Monta Ellis reached double figures with 10 & 14 points respectively, but they were just a combined 7-26 from the floor. Jordan Hill led a poor offensive bench effort with six points. Rodney Stuckey returned to action, but looked rusty as expected. Indiana's inability to get any shots on a long Charlotte field goal drought early in the fourth with the bench was ultimately their undoing.
The Pacers have done well to get help for Paul George, but there was very little of that tonight. George was fantastic despite failing to stop Walker at the end of the game with his help defense and missing the game winning shot. George had 32 points on the night on 13-26 shooting, but was just 2-8 from deep (one of only two Pacers to make a three with George Hill) and didn't work his way to the line with four free throws.
While the Pacers have done better in close games, they're still finding themselves in them and it's creating opportunities for losses rather than opportunities for wins. The Hornets led by 77-64 with just under three minutes in the third quarter. For a team that often struggles offensively, it's a difficult spot to be in, and it proved just too much for Indiana to ultimately overcome in a must-win game against a team they're fighting for a playoff spot with.
With the win, the Hornets clinch the head-to-head tiebreaker with back-to-back wins in Indiana. That's a bad sign for Indiana, who also failed to seize head-to-head edges over teams like Miami, Chicago, and Boston. Indiana will tip off against on Sunday at home against the Portland Trail Blazers, who have as much incentive to win games as anyone as they're caught in a tight race for one of the final Western Conference Playoff spots.