The success of the Indiana Pacers recently has been hung on their defense. Their offense has been below average in a number of games, but their ability to grind out games has helped push them to wins in four of their last five games. Tonight against the Charlotte Hornets however, went in the opposite direction.
The Hornets hit seven threes in the first quarter, but led by only three. The Pacers were able to stay in the game thanks to their own offense, which featured tremendous ball movement, giving them 17 assists in their first 20 field goals. Indiana did lead halfway through the second, riding a healthy dosage of Domantas Sabonis and Aaron Holiday.
However, it was a costly 10-0 Hornets run that came to follow Sabonis’s exit with a turned ankle that really helped decide the game. Even still, the Hornets’ 68-60 halftime lead could still be seen as a fortunate situation for Indiana that it wasn’t much much worse.
At that point, the game could only go one of two ways: either the Pacers would be swallowed by the avalanche, or the Hornets would come back to earth. Unfortunately for the blue and gold, it wasn’t the latter.
Tyreke Evans woke up early in the third, scoring seven to open the half, but Charlotte still continued to push the lead, scoring on eight of their next nine possessions to double the halftime lead and drop the Pacers into an impossible situation. At the end of the third, Indiana had allowed 105 points, a total they themselves would struggle to reach by the end of the game.
In the third, Indiana had just two assists. Charlotte on the other hand assisted on nine of their 12 field goals, deciding the game on a 37-24 quarter. It was enough to put the Pacers out of their misery, though there were a number of other contributions that helped put them in the loss column. Indiana had just 14 turnovers on the game, but were woeful in stopping the Hornets off of those mistakes, allowing 22 points.
They also allowed eight second chance points off of just five Charlotte offensive boards. All of that paled in comparison to just how dominate the Hornets were offensively, however. Charlotte shot over 60% for much of the game, hitting 18 from three point range. Indiana was a step slow in covering the shooters tonight and it hurt them in a big way.
Even when they were able to cover shooters, the confidence of the Hornets had become an insurmountable problem. Three separate Hornets had a season high in points and Jeremy Lamb, a fourth, fell a point shy. Kemba Walker has been a one man wrecking crew the last two games, but had more than enough help tonight.
There were seven Pacers in double figures, which again outlines just how much this fell on the defense. Four starters reached double figures, but only Bojan Bogdanovic had a big game. He finished with 20 points, hitting four threes in the first half. Even with Bogdanovic’s big first half, it was the second unit that really worked them back in the game.
When Evans’s start to the third quarter fizzled, there was no life from the starters, but it wasn’t until the Pacers were down 15 that Nate McMillan went to the bench. It was too little too late as both Holiday and Sabonis failed to make an impact. Holiday scored 11, but was just 2-9 from the floor and Sabonis had no points after 15 in the first half.
Lost in the loss was an impressive 16-17 night from the free throw line and a season best night from Doug McDermott. He had 15 with three threes and sent away a pair of blocks in the first half. Myles Turner had four blocks of his own, but scored just 10. Turner’s tentativeness on the offensive side of the ball has become more frustrating, especially as Indiana could use more from him on that side of the ball. Shoot it!
The Pacers will return home for their annual post-Thanksgiving home game. The Christmas tree will be lit up in Indianapolis, and the Pacers will have an opportunity to bounce back and sweep the season series against the San Antonio Spurs for the second straight season.