The Indiana Pacers found themselves on the wrong end of a blistering opening performance, giving up 49 first quarter points to the Charlotte Hornets on 82.6% shooting. The Hornets didn’t miss a shot inside the arc until the early stages of the second quarter, but even despite that, the Pacers were in position to minimize the damage of that performance by scoring 37 first quarter points themselves.
Over the course of the next two quarters, the Pacers were much better defensively, outscoring the Hornets 54-47, but even though the Indiana offense closed the gap in the third quarter, they still lost the second, being outscored 22-20. That inability to seize the momentum was a big factor in the direction the game ultimately went.
Indiana held the Hornets in the second quarter, but still found themselves down 18 with 2:18 left in the half by shooting just 33% in the quarter. While that deficit is clearly not impossible for this team to overcome, it’s a dangerous life to live when you’re relying as much on the opposing team to fall back as you’re expecting yourselves to step up.
The Pacers did erase that 18-point lead in its entirety in the third quarter, tying the game at 82-82 with 4:43 left in the quarter on a Myles Turner three. The Pacers had the ball with a chance to take the lead, but a missed layup by Bojan Bogdanovic sent the game in the wrong direction as the Hornets outscored Indiana 14-9 to close the quarter.
That boost proved enough for the Hornets, who would score on their first six possessions of the fourth quarter to keep an otherwise surging Pacers team at bay. It seemed every chance the Pacers had to put the game in their favor wound up in a crucial miss while the Hornets had no problem hitting tough shots throughout the fourth, as Kemba Walker scored 10 of his game high 41 points to help put the game on ice, with the Hornets scoring 37 fourth quarter points.
The Pacers struggled defensively, which is an obvious observation when a team allows 133 points in a regulation game, but they struggled to keep the Hornets from converting from behind the arc, allowing 15 on the night. Nicolas Batum once again had a big night from deep, scoring 31 points on seven threes, and the Pacers were very slow to adjust to Batum, with his early threes coming uncontested.
Indiana also struggled on the glass, getting outrebounded by 12 and allowing 11 offensive rebounds that turned into nine second chance points for the Hornets. While that isn’t a devastating result for the Hornets on its own, their conversions in the fourth quarter were exactly that, their second of the quarter pushing a four point lead to six halfway through the quarter.
Victor Oladipo led the way for the Pacers with 35 points, shooting 10-11 from the free throw line. Oladipo scored 15 in the third quarter, but couldn’t match wits with Walker in the fourth, scoring seven in the fourth. Myles Turner scored 19 points and pulled in 11 rebounds, but his 32 minutes didn’t feel like nearly enough, with the Pacers being outscored by five after he took a rest in the second half.
While Lance Stephenson and Cory Joseph each reached double figures, the bench as a whole struggled to keep the Pacers in the game. Turner’s rim protection was missing in the second unit when the Hornets felt less hesitant to go towards the basket against Domantas Sabonis, hitting floaters with relative ease.
Stephenson led the bench with 15 points, but took some really bad shots en route to that otherwise positive showing. Stephenson hit three threes, but fell into a couple of heat checks, missing a deep three to end the third with the Pacers down just five after Stephenson hit a three to cut it to that deficit.
Bogdanovic scored 18 points, including a perfect 6-6 from the free throw line, but was a real defensive liability tonight with Batum having his way for the second straight game. Bogdanovic’s defensive struggles aren’t without their truths, but this is where Indiana’s roster is at its weakest as they have no options beyond him when the Pacers need defense.
They ultimately moved Thaddeus Young onto Batum, which helped, but that’s hardly a long term solution. That makes the nearing return of Glenn Robinson III huge as it will give them much needed depth at the wing position even if Robinson himself remains undersized to be a true three.
In the meantime, Bogdanovic’s offensive abilities have proven capable of overcoming any defensive struggles, but when it rains, it pours, and the Hornets made the most of their opportunities tonight to secure the win. While a disappointing loss in their inability to get the stops and make the shots necessary to put them over the top, the Pacers were still able to find themselves in the game late thanks to their ability to force turnovers, coming up with 10 steals and scoring 22 points off turnovers.
The Pacers will return home for a pair of games, beginning tomorrow night on the second night of a back to back against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers will be on a second night themselves, which could spare them a matchup against Joel Embiid. The schedule becomes a bit tougher over the next four games despite playing teams without key pieces, making it important for the Pacers to avoid slipping into any kind of losing skid tomorrow night.