In a complete reversal of fortunes, the Indiana Pacers responded to their 46-point loss to Toronto with a spirited 39-point win over the Charlotte Hornets. From Malcolm Brogdon and T.J. Warren setting the tone early to both Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner inching close to completely different triple doubles, the Pacers had everything going tonight, the perfect response to one of the most demoralizing losses in franchise history.
Brogdon was brilliant, hitting his first three point attempt of the night to give Indiana the lead for good at 3-2, scoring 15 points on 6-8 shooting and setting the tone in the passing game with seven assists. Brogdon had four of those in the first quarter, all to different players, as the Pacers quickly jumped ahead by double figures.
Unfortunately, they were unable to really build on that advantage for much of the quarter, allowing the Hornets to play within seven as late as a minute left in the first. But a Justin Holiday three, capped off by one of several JaKarr Sampson dunks, put them ahead 35-25 after the first.
Sampson started the second the same way he ended the first as the Pacers opened the second on an 11-0 run to push their lead to 21. Doug McDermott got in on the dunkfest, meanwhile Sabonis stepped into an all-day three point attempt that forced the second timeout of the quarter for Hornets, Pacers up 24.
Indiana was keyed in in attacking a porous Charlotte defense just as Turner led the charge on the defensive end to force stops. As the Pacers shot around 70% for much of the first half, Turner held a good old fashioned block party, sending away six shots in the half. Everything went for the Pacers, including shots that didn’t count, wrapping up a nice 24 minutes with a 69-44 advantage.
Myles Turner gets up for his 6TH BLOCK of the FIRST HALF! pic.twitter.com/wBmonMxQMs— NBA (@NBA) February 26, 2020
The game shifted slightly in the third quarter after the Pacers matched their Sunday total of 81 points on a 12-2 run to start the quarter. The Indiana offense began to slide back down to earth, going scoreless from the field for five and a half minutes. Even still, the defense was locked in, limiting Charlotte to just five points over that stretch, wrapping up a 25-11 quarter.
Across the middle two quarters, the Pacers held the Hornets to just 30 points, a total they would nearly match in the fourth. Playing to become the first team in NBA history to lose by 40 and then win by 40, Indiana fell just shy in garbage time, going up by 39 on Brian Bowen II’s second NBA bucket. After a Goga Bitadze turnover, T.J. McConnell opted to take a shot clock violation with nine seconds remaining, securing the 119-80 victory.
The Pacers matched their season high of 35 assists for the fourth time tonight, not surprisingly moving to 12-2 on the year when they have 30 or more. Brogdon needs to be Indiana’s best player to put them back on this kind of trajectory and that was fully on display tonight. He set the tone from the outset even though he didn’t lead the Pacers in any category (shy of turnovers).
This play in particular is a great example of how much of a rhythm the Pacers played with early as a Turner block led to three passes on the fast break, finding Warren for the layup.
The leader in assists tonight came from Sabonis, finishing with nine, one shy of a triple double with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Sabonis had no trouble going after the Hornets, going 6-7 at the rim. The Pacers as a whole outscored Charlotte 62-34 in the paint and outrebounded them 57-39, despite allowing 13 offensive rebounds.
Truly, the rebounding gap had more to do with the wildly divergent shooting percentages than a true showcase of dominance. The Pacers finished at 57% for the game, down from nearly 70% in the first half, while the Hornets shot just 33% on eight extra attempts. It wasn’t entirely volume, however. Indiana did rebound well, especially when they had to.
Turner joined Sabonis in double figures with 10 rebounds, playing with a purpose on the defensive end. After six first half blocks, Turner picked up two more, finishing with eight, a new career high. It was a vintage Turner block party, going to task against any Hornets player who dared challenge the rim. He not only sent away three shots from Cody and Caleb Martin, but three from Terry Rozier as well.
While Sabonis led the team in scoring, the early output from Warren was a real boost as Indiana looked to put their mark on the game early. Of his 19 points, he scored nine in the opening quarter, the last of those points coming to put Indiana ahead by seven, giving them a cushion against their own miscues early.
The one blemish on the night was with their turnovers. They lost the turnover battle 14-10 and were outscored 15-10 off of those mistakes. Fortunately, it didn’t impact Indiana’s overall feel of the game, especially as the second unit turned the game into a blowout.
The frustrating loss of Jeremy Lamb for the season, along with injuries to Victor Oladipo and Edmond Sumner, opened up the rotation for not only Aaron Holiday, but Sampson as well. Sampson in particular was a force, scoring 10 points on 5-7 shooting (“shooting” used lightly given every shot was a layup or dunk).
His energy sparked the Pacers midway through the first half, getting production from both McDermott and Justin Holiday. The Pacers started off the game perfect from three point range, perfect all except McDermott, who was 0-3 from deep despite scoring 10 on the night. Holiday meanwhile was one of three Pacers to hit a pair of threes (joining Brogdon and Turner) as the team finished an efficient 10-23 from three point range.
Despite the loss to Toronto and the somewhat uninspiring victory over New York, the Pacers improve to 3-1 since their season long six game losing streak. While the bad has been quite bad, the good in these last four games has really been quite good, which might throw up flags of inconsistency, but at the very least, offer a glimpse of what Indiana is capable of...in either direction.
Indiana has one home game before hitting the road for a five game tour of the Midwest and Texas, hosting the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday. Damian Lillard and the Blazers lit up Indiana a month ago, giving Indiana some more revenge based motivation heading into Thursday’s matchup, which may or may not feature Lillard, who has been out recently with a groin strain.