The matchup against the Charlotte Hornets continued to be a conundrum for the Indiana Pacers, ultimately becoming one of the worst losses in franchise history for the Pacers after a competitive up and down first half. The Pacers allowed 87 second half points, surrendering 10 three pointers in the fourth quarter alone to let up a franchise worst 158 points.
The Pacers did make a game of it for the first 24 minutes, responding well after a terrible start found them down 12-3. They would come all the way back and eventually build a five-point lead late in the first, but it was fairly clear even as they led 36-33 after the first quarter that they would need their offense to do all of the work to have a shot in this one.
Another slow start to open the second allowed Charlotte to wrangle the lead back, but even as the Pacers fought back and regained the advantage themselves, the Hornets would never relent on the offensive end of the floor. Chris Duarte intercepted a P.J. Washington Jr. pass late in the second and broke away for a dunk to put Indiana on top 64-63. Not even 10 seconds later, Kelly Oubre Jr. hit a three.
Chris Duarte gets the steal and the slam!— Bally Sports Indiana (@BallySportsIN) January 27, 2022
Stream: https://t.co/rCVImWwvWj#GoldBlooded #Pacers pic.twitter.com/DBk4pbQZ7H
Indiana’s last lead of the game would come seconds before halftime when a similar situation unfolded. Lance Stephenson hit two free throws to put the Pacers ahead 7068 only to have Terry Rozier close the half on a three pointer of his own. Rozier and Oubre combined for seven first half threes, which is honestly a little quaint if you think about it.
Cody Martin opened the second half with a three for the Hornets and suddenly it was an avalanche of points for Charlotte the Pacers simply could no longer contend with. Before Indiana could find much of anything on offense, they were down 22, having been outscored 33-12. Stephenson would score the next six and Isaiah Jackson would put in four more to bring Indiana to within 14, but Oubre would quickly erase that mini-run, putting the Hornets back up by 20 late in the third.
Oubre simply kept the good times rolling in the fourth, scoring 15 in the quarter on 5-6 from three. By the time the Hornets pulled their starters, they had pushed their lead out to 36 at 149-113, a perfect capper for a Hornets team that completely dominated the Pacers in all four regular season games.
The Hornets would finish the night the same way they started it: drilling a three and wrapping up the night with 158 points and 24 three pointers on a staggering 53% from deep. Charlotte as a team shot 58% overall while leading the Pacers in free throws for much of the night for good measure. Four different Hornets reached over 20 points, led by 39 from Oubre, including 29 from LaMelo Ball.
On the Pacers end of things, they technically did enough to win the game offensively with 126 points, but that requires ignoring the pace of the game being played so far in Charlotte’s advantage that there was never a realistic path to a win short of Indiana hitting twice as many threes themselves (they hit 10).
Goga Bitadze would lead the starters with 17 points, overcoming an awful opening couple of minutes, pulling in six offensive rebounds. He would be limited in the first half with foul trouble, opening time for Jackson, who would also score 17 and would also be limited with foul trouble. The duo helped Indiana to a 60-54 win in points in the paint even as they were saddled with seven combined turnovers.
Turnovers were one of the biggest issues of the night for the Pacers. The inability to control the ball allowed Charlotte to just run wild in transition, outscoring Indiana 27-18 in points off turnovers, finishing with 30 in fast break points. With the Hornets threatening the league record in three pointers made tonight, gesturing around at all of the other things helps show how a bad night become an extra bad night.
Eight Pacers would reach double figures, including 14 each from Torrey Craig and Stephenson. Stephenson would also have 10 assists in a night when the Pacers as a team totaled 33. Duarte and Duane Washington Jr. scored 11 each and Justin Holiday also had 10.
Caris LeVert had just 10 on 3-7 shooting. With the officials whistling a total of 60 fouls tonight, LeVert was one of many players limited with foul trouble. That foul trouble seemed the most effective against him, keeping him from getting in much of a rhythm at all, though he did join Stephenson and Jackson with a team high six free throw attempts.
The Pacers wrap up their season series with Charlotte in an 0-4 sweep, the Hornets completing their revenge tour after getting run out of the Fieldhouse last May in the play-in game. The loss puts the Pacers 10 games back of the 7th seed, falling back into the 5th worst record in the league with their third straight loss.
Indiana also falls to 8-23 against the Eastern Conference, losing their 10th straight against a conference foe. The loss is also their sixth of seven at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, dropping them to 12-13 at home. With home no reprieve from the seemingly endless losing, Indiana will head back out on the road for a back-to-back weekend trip starting against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.