The Indiana Pacers returned to form in their win over the Charlotte Hornets this afternoon, overcoming their abysmal schedule loss from Friday. The Pacers nearly matched their Friday output in one half, scoring 70 points to lead the Hornets by 13. Indiana started the half with a bucket, but had to reestablish themselves after the Hornets closed the gap to two on a 13-0 run.
The Pacers did just that, responding with an 18-4 run that put them up 16 in the late stages of the third. The lead would be pushed to 20 in the fourth, but the Pacers were forced to hold on late as the Hornets cut that lead down to four with a minute to go. Indiana would close out the win at the free throw line, clinching a winning road record for the season.
The winning road record is just one of many surprises on the season, but maybe their most impressive. It’s just the fourth time in an 82-game season than the NBA Pacers have clinched a winning road record. Indiana started the year 2-5 on the road and sat at 13-16 heading into March. They’ve closed the year on an 8-4 run, coming away with a winning record against playoff teams in that stretch.
Domantas Sabonis led the way for the Pacers in the win, scoring a career high 30 points on 13-21 shooting. Sabonis was lights out shooting the ball, but worked for eight rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Sabonis was thrust into 38 minutes tonight due to the foul trouble of Myles Turner.
Turner played just seven minutes, going scoreless on 0-4 shooting because he was swift to pick up his second, third, and fourth fouls against Dwight Howard. It was a frustrating capper to a nine game stretch in which he’s only scored in double figures once. Turner is averaging just 7.9 points per game on 35.2% shooting in this stretch.
Sabonis meanwhile was also hampered with fouls, picking up his third before the end of the half, but when coming in for Turner to start the third quarter, he managed to avoid picking up his fourth until the final quarter, scoring six in the third. Sabonis also had three offensive rebounds, leading to seven of his points.
Victor Oladipo rebounded from his season low five points against Toronto with a big 27 point game on 12-15 shooting. Oladipo had 11 points in the first quarter on three threes and scored 19 in the first half. He finished with five assists, a high among starters. They all came in the first half, three going to Sabonis in the first quarter.
Oladipo also had three steals to lead the team along with Sabonis and Thaddeus Young. The Pacers had 11 steals in the game, forcing the Hornets into 21 turnovers. The Pacers would actually go on to lose the battle in points off turnovers despite having six less in the game, getting outscored 25-23.
The one blemish on the night for Oladipo was him shooting 0-2 from the free throw line, missing a pair late as Charlotte was rallying and had cut the lead from 20 to seven. The misses didn’t affect the outcome of the game with the Pacers going 5-6 to close out the win, but it did result in Oladipo staying after the game to work on free throws with former college coach Tom Crean.
Oladipo drops 27 PTS on 12 for 15 shooting. But he went 0-2 from the line.— Charlie Clifford (@cliffWISH8) April 8, 2018
So, of course, he is talking shop with Tom Crean AFTER the game. Incredible. Courtesy: Fox Sports Indiana pic.twitter.com/45zAsA4823
The Pacers bench scored 72 points today, with both Cory Joseph and Glenn Robinson III scoring 13. The two hit five three pointers combined and it was another step forward for Robinson, who will be a big factor off the bench for the Pacers in whoever they face in the first round. Along with Trevor Booker, who had eight points, the three shot 13-19 from the floor, shooting a combined 65% with Sabonis.
The one bench player who didn’t shoot well was Lance Stephenson, but he dished out a game high 10 assists to five different players, including four assists to Sabonis. Stephenson also had 10 rebounds, but didn’t score his first points until the end of the third. Stephenson scored five more to start the fourth, setting up the always entertaining triple double chase down that simultaneously allows the other team back into the game down 18. He would fall short with eight points, shooting 0-5 (0-4 from three) after picking up his seventh point.
The Pacers win puts them at 48-33 on the year, but once again had to watch Philadelphia come up with a win, their 14th straight, to officially knock the Pacers out of contention for the third seed. The Pacers can still host a home court series, but would require Cleveland to lose their last two against New York.
The third seed, and Indiana’s opponent, is still in doubt because of Cleveland’s back-to-back against the Knicks. If Philadelphia wins out, the Pacers will be facing the Cavs, but if the Cavs win out and the Sixers drop one of their last two, they’ll be hitting the road against them.
In the meantime, the Pacers have one more regular season, wrapping up their own back-to-back series against the Charlotte Hornets. It will be fan appreciation night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers will know heading into the game whether they’ll still be in contention for a home court series against the Cavs, which could lead to a bench heavy lineup on Tuesday.