Though the scoreboard doesn’t reflect it, the Indiana Pacers had a tough go in the second half against the Charlotte Hornets, needing a big fourth quarter to close out the win. The Pacers didn’t trail after falling behind 11-10 early, but similar to the game against Atlanta, they showcased their proclivity to give up a sizable lead heading into the final period before finally putting their foot down and stomping out the Hornets.
The Pacers jumped into the lead for good halfway through the first, scoring 13 straight across three minutes to take a double figure lead. Myles Turner got Indiana there on both ends, scoring six and blocking Michael Kidd-Gilchrist inside. The Pacers led by 15 heading into the second, pushing that advantage to 17 on back-to-back buckets from Justin Holiday and Aaron Holiday.
Charlotte’s offensive rebounding did a number on the Pacers, closing the gap to 10 late in the second quarter. Indiana held them at arm’s length, however as Malcolm Brogdon put in a three to put them up 59-44 at the half. At odds with Charlotte’s win over the Pacers in November, the Hornets offense lacked the same punch, especially from Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier. The duo shot just 4-30 from the floor for 15 points after torching the Pacers for 57 on November 5.
That made things difficult for a zone-heavy Hornets squad in keeping pace with Indiana’s scoring output. That changed in the third quarter when the Pacers went ice cold, finishing the third shooting 3-17, allowing the Hornets to trim away almost all of a once 19-point lead, rebounding their way to a four point deficit with 41 seconds in the quarter.
Indiana got a late bucket from T.J. McConnell to make it a six point game heading into the fourth, when a Domantas Sabonis follow-up tip and a Doug McDermott three suddenly pushed the lead into double figures, granting the Pacers some much needed breathing room. McDermott would perform an encore three minutes later, hitting another three as part of a five-point push along with J. Holiday, making it an 88-72 game.
The Holidays, led tonight by Aaron, scored seven straight after the halfway point of the fourth, turning a 15-point lead into a 22-point one, effectively closing out the win. The Pacers stayed at 22 to close the game, wrapping up a 107-85 victory to push their winning streak to three games.
The Pacers, per usual, played a balanced game and succeeded because of it, with A. Holiday scoring a game high 23 off the bench. Holiday was 6-10 from the floor, but worked his way to the line with ease, going 9-10. The staggering free throw gap the last time these two teams met was a massive storyline and while it still balanced out to a large advantage for Charlotte, Holiday’s ability tonight to get to the line really helped keep it somewhat reasonable, shooting half of the team’s attempts.
Ultimately, the Hornets still outshot the Pacers 35-20 at the free throw line, aided by their ability to offensive rebound, topping the Pacers 17-8. This led to 17 points from Charlotte, but the Pacers again did a really good job minimizing the damage the Hornets could inflict on the glass, scoring 12 themselves and forcing Charlotte into a pair of shot clock violations early.
Pacers Killer All-Star Bismack Biyombo teamed up with Cody Zeller to combine for 14 of those offensive rebounds while Sabonis and Turner had just two combined, but Sabonis’s follow early in the fourth was a big play to push the Pacers towards the win. Both bigs finished with double doubles, Sabonis with 12 & 12 and Turner had 14 & 10. Turner had five blocks in the game, even coming close to a Smothered Chicken. They also combined for six assists, including one to each other early in the third.
The balance of the Pacers was on display in a big way tonight as both Jeremy Lamb and T.J. Warren finished with single digit shooting games. Brogdon himself followed with just 11 and only McConnell reached double figures off the bench (outside of A. Holiday) with 12. Part of this was due to Indiana’s woeful shot from deep, finishing 10-35 for 28.6% against Charlotte’s zone. They didn’t shoot themselves out of the zone, but the Hornets did even worse, shooting 5-32, Graham alone going 3-14.
After a successful stint in Fort Wayne, Goga Bitadze returned to Indianapolis and looked as involved as he has since returning from his concussion. Though the minute count was just eight, he had two points and two blocks. McDermott himself had just six points, but the timing on both of his threes was huge, pushing Indiana into double figures (and the win) early in the fourth.
The win gives Indiana their third straight overall, improving them to 6-1 at home in their last seven. The success they’ve had on their home court of late will be put to the test on Tuesday when they host the 24-3 Los Angeles Lakers, who have as many road wins (14) as Indiana has played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Things didn’t go so well against the other Los Angeles team last week, which came down to Indiana’s inability to generate offense against a top 10 defensive opponent. That could be a problem especially as former coach Frank Vogel has lifted the Lakers to third in the league defensively.