Though the Indiana Pacers were short Malcolm Brogdon and then Domantas Sabonis late, tonight’s loss to the Charlotte Hornets felt like a low point in a season that’s not had much of a shortage in low points. The Pacers were never in any kind of rhythm on either end of the floor, yet they still saw a glimmer of hope after cutting a once 17-point deficit to just six.
Unfortunately, the backlash was instantaneous any time the Pacers appeared to have found something by making it a two-possession game, failing to garner a single stop in five separate opportunities. The Hornets had built their lead thanks to a big second quarter from Miles Bridges, turning a four-point Indiana lead into a double digit Hornets advantage at the half, then bowling over Indiana to go ahead 70-53 early in the third despite losing Gordon Hayward at the half.
A spirited effort from Caris LeVert helped breathe life back into the Pacers with Aaron Holiday scoring five to make it a single digit game. Though that didn’t last a single possession, Indiana still brought the game back within reach after a well-timed three from Goga Bitadze on their final possession of the third.
Holiday’s positives in the quarter (including this assist) were immediately wiped away, however, whether by bad pass or a brutal three-shot foul on Terry Rozier with 0.3 seconds left in the quarter, allowing the Hornets two free points to end the quarter. The Pacers opened the third scoring on their first three possessions. The downside is that Charlotte did the exact same thing, their third basket kicking off a 7-0 run that turned a six-point game into a 13-point one.
Indiana’s success in the fourth was almost entirely predicated on a T.J. McConnell-led offense, which again worked just enough to claw Indiana back to within six at 97-91 with 5:50 remaining. They had a shot...for about as long as Charlotte’s timeout lasted. The Hornets scored on their next three possessions, doubling up the lead and coasting to a comfortable win with a 16-2 run.
Not only could the Pacers not score at all late in the fourth, but they couldn’t stop from turning it over, committing three turnovers in the run, finishing the night with 20. Though the Pacers somehow won the points off turnover battle 18-17, they still lost 20 shots on a night they desperately needed every opportunity they could get to secure a win.
The Pacers were bad at just about everything tonight. The Hornets had 56 paint points, shooting well over 60% around the rim. They also doubled up the Pacers at the free throw line 20-10 in what was a pitiful showing for both teams. The Hornets won that battle 69%-59%, the Pacers missing eight free throws.
LeVert led all Pacers with 16 points, going 5-13 to get there. As the primary ball handler with the starters, the offense never seemed to get off the ground. McConnell and the second unit predictably brought some life to the offense, with he (12), Doug McDermott (13), A. Holiday (12), and Bitadze (10) each reaching double figures, but it was never quite enough, especially as the defense continued to fail, again and again and again.
The Pacers have now played eight straight quarters under 30 points, which would be more understandable if the Hornets didn’t enter the game 19th in defense. The absence of Brogdon was felt throughout the game, but the Pacers didn’t have any issues allowing both Washington and Charlotte the chance to have big nights without key players themselves.
Dropping to 8-14 at home, including an 0-2 record in this two-game homestand, a winning home record for the Pacers is all but out of reach pending a miraculous turnaround (and fast!). They fall to 21-26, which matches a season worst in games under .500, still sitting in ninth as the teams behind them continue to pick up losses of their own. The Pacers will have a quick turnaround as they hit the road for a back-to-back tomorrow night against the San Antonio Spurs.