Opponent: Charlotte Hornets
Starting Lineup: DeVonte Graham - Terry Rozier - Miles Bridges - PJ Washington - Cody Zeller
Second Unit: Malik Monk - Nic Batum - Cody Martin - Jalen McDaniels - Bismack Biyombo
Leading Scorer: Graham/Rozier (17.6 PPG)
Leading Rebounder: Zeller (7.2 RPG)
Leading Assists: Graham (7.7 APG)
Biggest Strength: Fastbreak Efficiency (Offense/Defense)
The Hornets employ a two point guard lineup, and surround them with athletic wings and bigs, which gets them out and moving at a fast pace on both ends of the court. They rank first in the NBA in defensive fast break efficiency and 13th on offense. Rozier and Graham both want to push the ball, Zeller knows the run to the rim and Bridges and Washington are the prototypical athletic, three-point shooters to fade to the wings/corners. On defense, they hardly ever crash the offensive glass, which allows for any transition offense to get quickly squashed. Fast break efficiency isn’t the Indiana Pacers’ strongest area, as they rank 15th in fast break efficiency and 23rd in defensive fast break efficiency.
Biggest Weakness: Offensive Efficiency
The Hornets don’t have many guys who can score at a high-rate while also doing it efficiently. Their leading scorers, Graham and Rozier, are shooting 37.3% and 41.9% from the field respectively. Monk is fourth on the team in 3PA per game, yet he’s shooting under 30% on his attempts. Their frontcourt is by far more efficient, but Washington, Zeller and Bridges just don’t shoot it enough to demand that respect. As a team, they currently rank 28th in offensive efficiency, just ahead of the New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors.
The X-Factor: Bridges
Graham and Rozier lead their offensive charge, but they need a third leg to emerge if they want to demand respect on that end of the court. Their best chance at a true third scorer for the remainder of this season is Bridges. The 6’6’’ wing scores 13.2 PPG on 44/34/80 shooting splits. He does some things athletically that are mind-blowing, but he lacks the handle to generate much offense himself. He’s made a recent jump, though, as he’s averaging 19.2 PPG in his last 10 outings. Is this sustainable? Or is he bound to come down to earth? That could go a long way to creating enough offense to be competitive.
Charlotte was somewhat competing for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference to start the year, but that was mainly because Graham was playing at an all-star level. Since then, he has came down to earth, and so have the Hornets. In fact, Graham has been one of the most inefficient offensive players in the NBA for the second half of the year. Without him playing like a stud, Charlotte isn’t much. They have a lot of guys who are fine players. Bridges is fine. Washington is fine. Zeller is fine. But a bunch of fine players don’t amount to wins when your best player is playing at one of the most inefficient levels in the NBA. However, with the way Indiana has been playing, they can’t look at any game like an easy win.