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Pacers final score: Hornets shoot past Pacers 116-108

All of Indiana’s comeback attempts fell short against Charlotte, resulting in their second straight loss. Caris LeVert scored 27 points.

Charlotte Hornets v Indiana Pacers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Unable to overcome some wild Terry Rozier shots late, the Indiana Pacers dropped their second straight game and third this season to the Charlotte Hornets after having clawed back to within four and five points in the fourth quarter after having fallen behind by as many as 18 in a dreadful first half.

Rozier lit the Pacers up from the jump, scoring 13 in the first quarter as the Hornets just kind of marched away on the scoreboard. Their 65-47 lead with 2:48 remaining in the half was a game high, though the Pacers managed to at least lop off a couple of points heading into the break.

At least on the offensive end, it wasn’t a complete loss. The Pacers scored 57 in the half and were an impressive 10-22 from three point range. The downside is that their defense was simply unable to come up with stops, a combination of shooting (58% for the Hornets), hustle plays, and rebounding (27-18) giving Charlotte ample opportunity to run up the score.

While Charlotte’s shooting percentage was dragged down due to their three point shooting in the first half (5-16), the Pacers needed every single three they could get due to their poor inside shooting. Indiana was just 8-19 inside the arc. Things began to look up for Indiana (at least in a relative sense) to open the third, outscoring the Hornets 6-2 to cut the lead to 10.

That would be as close as they could get for much of the third until Kelan Martin’s three pointer made it a seven point game with just over three minutes left in the quarter. After a brief Hornets response, Oshae Brissett scored five, aided by a key Martin steal, to cut the lead to five at 87-82 with 34 seconds left.

On cue, Gordon Hayward banked in a three pointer to end the third (the second of the game for Charlotte) and just like that, the Pacers found themselves down eight heading into the fourth. The unit to start the fourth, featuring Brissett, Martin, Torrey Craig, Keifer Sykes, and Domantas Sabonis brought the best effort of the game, cutting the lead to four in the opening two minutes.

When one of the teams needed a break, however, it went unilaterally to the visiting Hornets, who poured in five points as a response. The return of Caris LeVert to the game would kind of give Indiana another shot at a comeback, but his play was particularly wonky, featuring jerky drives and stops, odd passing decisions, and bailed out three pointers that would still somehow eventually bring the game back to within four.

Martin had a nice block on Rozier after a pair of Craig free throws, but the block’s failure to result in a change of possession simply allowed Rozier another look at the basket, which would of course go. Down five following Martin’s third three of the half, Indiana would again get a defensive stop without forcing a change of possession, losing a jump ball that would again result in a bucket for Rozier.

In the end, Indiana simply couldn’t keep pace with the extra step and shotmaking the Hornets showed throughout the night. This is even with Charlotte leaving the door wide open by missing 13 at the line, a late Christmas present the Pacers fumbled into the fireplace by missing 10 free throw attempts of their own.

It was the kind of night where there wasn’t anything particularly endearing or optimistic coming out of it. The NBA debut of Sykes provided some passes to open shooters and nice disruption of an in-focus Charlotte offense. Brissett also continues to be a blast, finishing with 14 points and five rebounds (all on the offensive end!).

Martin and Craig combined for 15, bringing Indiana’s bench scoring to a respectable 29 points total, which was a welcome sight after mustering up just four points in the first half. Unfortunately, the lack of depth is catching up to Indiana with Jeremy Lamb entering health and safety protocols, making it difficult to know what to realistically expect from the bench so long as Malcolm Brogdon remains out.

The starters all reached double figures, led by LeVert with 27. While there were some stretches in which LeVert could at least provide a response to what Rozier (35 points) was doing, but as a whole, there was just a whole world of LeVert. He had six assists on the night, but wasn’t particularly effective running the offense, joining the other four starters with multiple turnovers.

As a whole, Indiana had 18 turnovers, which actually didn’t hurt them too much on the scoreboard, winning the points off turnovers battle 13-10, but it did do its job taking away much needed possessions for the Pacers, who could’ve used those 18 extra shots to maybe figure out something in the paint, scoring just 32 on the night.

Sabonis had 15, but was just 2-4 inside, doing a bulk of his work at the line. He would miss a good number of attempts at 8-14, but did work in helping shrink Indiana’s eyesore of a rebounding deficit, finishing with 18 as the Pacers closed the gap to within three. Charlotte did a good job erasing easy paint points for Sabonis, and as is to be expected with this Pacers team, there wasn’t much in the way of a response for Indiana.

Tonight’s promotion at Gainbridge Fieldhouse was that of the Star Wars variety, providing probably the highlight of the night before the game even tipped off with Myles Turner entering as Darth Vader and Justin Holiday balancing the force as a Jedi.

Turner finished the night off with 14 points and four blocks, playing extremely well in the fourth quarter to block shots and keep possessions alive for the aimless offense, though the frustrating part came in Indiana’s complete ability to turn those individual positives into team positives. Holiday and Chris Duarte each reached double figures with 12 & 11 points respectively. Holiday hit a pair of threes, joining Sabonis and LeVert with multiple steals while Duarte had probably the best inside night of any Pacer, scoring six points around the rim.

Indiana’s latest loss drops them to 14-21, resulting in a season series loss to Charlotte with one game remaining between the teams. While playoff tiebreakers sure don’t seem like they’ll come into play for this Pacers team, it’s going to make any potential run that much harder when they’re on the wrong side of head-to-head matchups, in addition to their rather poor 8-16 conference record.

The Pacers have one last game in 2020, a New Year’s Eve matinee (3 p.m. Eastern tip) against the Chicago Bulls at Gainbridge, looking to show something positive after their lackluster showing on the road on Sunday.