The Indiana Pacers got away with one against the Charlotte Hornets at home, extending their win streak to six games, but it was the Hornets that did everything to win except hit shots. As the buzzer sounded, Indiana won on 51% shooting, while Charlotte was held to just 32%, making all the difference in a game where the Hornets dominated so much of the game statistically.
Indiana did just enough to scrape by, however, closing the first quarter 28-9 after falling behind 10-4 early. The 13-point advantage jumped to 20 quickly, giving Indiana the necessary cushion to withstand diminishing returns on the offensive end. They jumped ahead with an impressive effort in the first quarter, led by their latest addition, Wesley Matthews.
Matthews was first on the floor for loose balls and passed with a purpose, dishing the go-ahead three to Myles Turner. Tyreke Evans stepped in off the bench to score the final five of the quarter for the Pacers, extending it to seven straight straight on his own, finishing the half with 10 points, helping them into the locker room up 16.
Despite Evans’s play, the Pacers were unable to push their lead past 20. Immediately following the 39-19 lead, Kemba Walker scored two and then was fouled on a three point shot. He missed two of the three, wasting a big opportunity to quickly cut into the lead.
The Hornets would eventually score the next three, but one advantage Indiana had even in their struggles was their ability to (eventually) force stops, minimizing the damage the Hornets were able to do while Indiana worked their issues. That allowed the Pacers to hold Charlotte to just 38 first half points, a season low, including 2-21 from three point range.
The opportunities escalated for the Hornets in the third quarter as they outscored the Pacers 10-3 out of the break, using complete dominance on the offensive glass to get them key buckets. Indiana’s offense came to a screeching halt with misses and badly timed turnovers, foul calls and continued surrendering of second chance opportunities, drawing Charlotte to within one point at 72-71 with a minute remaining in the third on a Walker three.
Turner responded with a much needed three, then corralled the much needed rebound off a Miles Bridges miss, allowing the Pacers to close the third with five straight points, a run that would extend to 13 points behind a pair of buckets each from Domantas Sabonis and Doug McDermott in the paint.
Indiana’s now 14-point lead still wasn’t safe with Walker slowly cutting into it. Down just seven, Walker missed a three and was blocked by Turner at the rim, but the Pacers were unable to capitalize. Matthews missed a three, but a rare offensive rebound by the Pacers set up another opportunity for the sharpshooter:
The deep three was Matthews’s first bucket as a Pacer, the first two straight to keep the Hornets at arms’ length. Time was on Indiana’s side after his second three, allowing the Pacers to hold on for the 99-90 win.
On the night, Matthews made a positive first impression with his play on defense, eventually drawing a technical when getting heated after what he felt was a missed call on a Walker shooting foul. His willingness to get on the floor and play selflessly was a big boost for a Pacers team that finished with 25 assists on 38 field goals.
He did struggle shooting, perhaps expected, finishing just 2-10 with eight points. He did have five rebounds and three assists, and the percentage can hopefully climb with more comfort with the team. Turner led the way with 18 points and nine rebounds, finishing with three steals and three blocks on 6-10 shooting.
The rest of the starting lineup reached double figures, getting the job done by committee. Darren Collison led the team in field goal attempts with 12, scoring 13 with eight assists. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 14 and Thaddeus Young pitched in with 11. Off the bench, Evans had 12 after being the first in double figures. Domantas Sabonis fell a point and rebound shy of a double double with nine and nine. Cory Joseph and McDermott each had six.
Indiana managed to with the game despite allowing 21 offensive rebounds. The Hornets outscored the Pacers 16-6 in second chance points and outpaced Indiana 13-2 in fast break opportunities. Charlotte finished the game with 16 extra field goal attempts, 15 of those coming from deep. Somehow in all of this, they also had 16 more free throw attempts, but their eight misses made it just a 10 point advantage over Indiana.
In a make-or-miss league, the Hornets lost in large part because of the misses. Indiana wasn’t their usual self in forcing turnovers, only creating seven on the game, but they were able to make things just hard enough for Charlotte that they could never get comfortable shooting the ball.
The ability to get rebounds will have to improve for Wednesday’s game when they host the league best Milwaukee Bucks in the final game before the All-Star Break. It will be a real measuring stick opportunity for this team after righting themselves following the four game skid.