The Indiana Pacers fell to the Charlotte Hornets tonight 121-118 after one of the odder games the team has played in recent memory.
Indiana had a chance to tie the game with 16 seconds left on the clock after Charlotte turned the ball over trying to push in transition. After a jumbled possession, the Pacers failed to get a shot off and the final buzzer rang out.
There is equally so much and so little to say about this game. So many statements that seem equidistant from one another on opposite ends of the spectrum are simultaneously true.
12 players played 10 plus minutes and all 13 players on the bench saw court time.
The Pacers scored 78 bench points, nearly 71% of all points scored by the team.
The team was outscored 63-48 in the opening half, and then won the second half by 12 points.
In the first half, the starters struggled a great deal to contain Charlotte, having difficulty with their roster’s length and athleticism. The Hornets also eviscerated the Pacers in transition, routinely pushing off both misses and makes and forcing odd-man advantages leading to easy attempts in the paint and at the rim, or wide open jumpers off kick-outs. Charlotte took 33 shots at the rim compared to 23 for the Pacers.
The Pacers’ offense was stagnant, jerky, and struggled to create penetration off of the dribble. The team took 6 shots at the rim in the first half, a vexingly low number, and a significant indicator of the halfcourt inefficiencies.
While the Pacers certainly missed jumpers, the starters combined to go 2/12 from deep, the shot diet was unsustainable regardless of shot success. Routinely, offensive possessions would start as late as 10 seconds into the shot clock, only for the initial play to die out, leading to heavily contested shots off the dribble, ill-fated floaters, and hot potato passing. This marks yet another game in which the starting unit struggles to gel, but the first in which they fell apart defensively to this degree.
After an early run from Charlotte that put the team down 25, Rick Carlisle pulled the entire starting lineup just before the 8 minute mark of the third quarter. None of the starters would check back into the game.
The bench unit put together an admirable run to get back into a game that seemed all but over. Torrey Craig, playing back in front of friends and family (he’s from South Carolina), had a fantastic game. He operated on-ball, was active defensively, a nuisance for the Hornets on the offensive glass, and finished with 14 points and 7 boards. Jeremy Lamb finished with a team high 23 points and was the go to option down the stretch against his former team. Goga Bitadze’s efforts on the glass were essential to whittling down the lead.
Despite the play of the bench, it felt much more as though the Hornets were lulled to sleep by their own success in the first half rather than ousted by the Pacers deep rotation players. Credit them for their effort and attitude, but much of the problems the Pacers faced early in the game persisted throughout (point of attack defense, overall communication, and offensive execution).
Indy is searching for answers, and regardless of outcome, the process is in dire need of improvement across the board.
LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward combined to tally nearly half of Charlotte’s offensive production (57 points) and were exceptional tonight. They improve to 10-7 and will maintain their 5th seed in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Pacers look to bounce back in the win column tomorrow against the New Orleans Pelicans who just picked up their second win of the season tonight, beating the Los Angeles Clippers handily 94-81.