The Indiana Pacers opened their Play-In Tournament run with a blowout win over the Charlotte Hornets. Indiana never trailed, quickly going ahead by double figures behind a scorching start from Doug McDermott, pushing ahead by 16 at the end of the first and building their lead in each of the following two quarters to put the game away early.
The Pacers, continuing to battle injuries, got bad news prior to the game with Caris LeVert set to miss extended time due to the health and safety protocols, but did finally start to get some guys back, including Malcolm Brogdon, Edmond Sumner, and Aaron Holiday. Sumner in particular looked much quicker since his initial injury against Brooklyn, scoring seven, including a buzzer-beating floater to end the first that more or less summed up the night for Indiana.
Brogdon’s return provided a nice boost to the Indiana offense. He finished with 16 points and eight assists, opening the game with a three, hitting three in the game. In fact, Indiana’s three point shooting was boosted almost entirely by the starters, hitting _ of the team’s _ on the night, four of them hitting three or more.
Doug McDermott hit four in the opening quarter, setting the pace for the game, finishing with 21. Oshae Brissett led the way with 23, going 10-14 from the floor and 3-6 from deep. Justin Holiday hit a trio of threes, including two big time triples late in the third after the Hornets had found a sliver of momentum, cutting a 30-point game down to 23 before the Holiday threes.
Indiana finished the game shooting 55.2% from the floor and 16-35 from three point range, just going right at an overwhelmed Charlotte defense all night. That shooting helped the Pacers in a big way, allowing them to respond each and every time the Hornets appeared to find some semblance of momentum, culminating in one of their most formidable offensive showings of the season, finishing with 144.
Sabonis had the most interesting game of the night, struggling shooting in the first half when trying to attack Cody Zeller, resulting in a 1-9 half. He did have five assists and 12 boards, helping Indiana build their 24-point halftime lead through his ability to open things up even as he personally struggled. He came around in the third quarter, scoring 12, dishing four assists, and pulling in nine more rebounds to finish one assist shy with 14 points, 21 rebounds, and nine assists.
Off the bench, T.J. McConnell led the charge with 17 points as Indiana still played nine deep in the first half. McConnell went 8-12 from the floor with four steals. Solid fourth quarter play from Goga Bitadze and Kelan Martin helped put both in double figures with 14 points each, including four points from Cassius Stanley and a five assist outing for A. Holiday.
The Pacers dominated the glass, outrebounding the Hornets 54-36 and 12-7 on the offensive glass. They scored 74 points in the paints and had 35 assists as a team. Surprisingly, the Pacers were less than efficient in fast break points (losing 32-25) and points off turnovers (26-17), though the Hornets did close the game on a 12-3 run.
This was something of a surprising outcome, though the Pacers showed up with a sense of urgency the Hornets simply didn’t seem to have. Though not officially a playoff game, this did have shades of postseason experience on display, despite Indiana’s lack of success in the postseason of late.