With 20 seconds left in the first half, Myles Turner pulled in an offensive rebound, whipping the ball to Tyrese Haliburton, who swung it around to Buddy Hield. Hield knocked in the corner triple, his first of the night. Turner then deflected a pass from LaMelo Ball, Jalen Smith feeding Hield in transition as Hield beat the buzzer to close the half with five quick points.
That sequence brought the Indiana Pacers to within three at the half, shaking them out of an odd malaise that permeated a majority of the first half. Hield personified that change, missing his first four shots from the field to that point. When he opened the second half with his second three, the Pacers were off to the races, at least figuratively speaking as the Charlotte Hornets continued to have a response in a back-and-forth second half.
Indiana, now officially a winning team, had to find a way to win tonight, not only with the Hield sequence to finish the second quarter, but in rallying behind Jalen Smith midway through the fourth quarter. The Pacers trailed by two when Rick Carlisle put the starting lineup back on the floor. Smith put back a Hield miss, worked his way to the line for two free throws, then challenged Mason Plumlee at the rim to set up Andrew Nembhard in transition.
Before the Hornets could key in with a response, the Pacers had run off eight straight points to regain the lead. Haliburton then found Turner rolling to the basket,
sinking the dagger on his own on the following possession.
That success late proved necessary given their rather poor start. The scoreboard didn’t tell the whole story in the first quarter as the teams played to a 27-27 draw, but that included an 0-9 three pointer stretch for Charlotte, one that began to show itself early in the second. P.J. Washington Jr. hit three in the quarter, helping the Hornets to 6-9 overall from deep as they expanded their lead to double figures.
Indiana didn’t have the same fight in them, getting waxed on the glass (-12) and being outscored 15-0 in second chance points before Turner split a trip at the line to give the Pacers their first. From that point, the Pacers would become the aggressors, outscoring the Hornets 10-4 in second chance points and winning the rebounding battle in the second half, all while going an impressive 17-18 from the line.
Haliburton would lead six double figure scorers and three 20-point scorers tonight with 22 points, including his fourth straight game with double figure assists, totaling 11. He (along with Andrew Nembhard) also had a game high three steals, helping the Pacers to score 27 in points off turnovers.
While Haliburton looks to start a new double double streak, Turner continued his, finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds. It was his fourth straight, trying a career best set twice in 2018-19. Turner also had three blocks, nearly matching Charlotte’s total as a team, including a particularly nice one against Kelly Oubre Jr. as the Pacers trailed in the third, looking for a spark.
The first half struggles weren’t only with Hield, but with Smith. The duo had just five points on 1-10 shooting before Hield closed the half with five himself. That combined total would become 20 in the second half on 6-12 shooting as each provided a necessary spark for the win.
Hield finished with 19 points, hitting three triples while Smith closed out with 11 points and seven boards. With that, all five starters scored in double figures, the third time this season the Pacers have done so, improving to 3-0. It was the second time with a lineup including Nembhard, who continues to play surprisingly composed, scoring 13 points on 5-6 shooting, hitting a three. He was limited a bit with foul trouble, but did pick up two charges, bringing his regular season total to four, putting him among the league top 10.
Off the bench, Bennedict Mathurin continues to lead the way, scoring 20 points on 7-13 shooting in just 22 minutes. Mathurin, in a bit of a back and forth with Jalen McDaniels, took a foul and a block against McDaniels to heart, scoring the first 10 of the second quarter for the Pacers to help them stay within striking distance of a suddenly scorching Hornets squad.
That exact scenario repeated itself in the second half, Mathurin again scoring the first 10 of the fourth quarter. This time, however, it was good enough to not only keep pace, but give Indiana a five point lead, one they’d welcome as some costly mistakes would push the Hornets back into the lead midway through the quarter.
Mathurin entered tonight’s game as the league leader in bench points, keeping up with his season average of 19.9 with 20 points tonight. Mathurin would (along with Turner and Hield) lead the way with six free throw attempts, hitting five. The Pacers as a team shot effectively, connecting on 26 of 31 from the line, including all six to ice the game late.
Oshae Brissett has continued to find himself after some lineup inconsistencies, finishing with eights points on 2-2 shooting, connecting on a pair of three pointers. Brissett, along with Aaron Nesmith, gave Indiana some life in the effort game, diving after loose balls when Charlotte appeared to have the advantage. Isaiah Jackson and T.J. McConnell each finished with six points, McConnell dishing five assists and Jackson blocking three shots.
The Pacers, at 7-6, are above .500 for the first time since February 2021. They’re currently sixth in the East and will have a real chance to move forward in both areas with their next three games. They’ll wrap up this two game road trip on Friday when they face the 3-12 Houston Rockets before heading home with a pair of games against 4-11 Orlando. It’ll be an interesting test for this Pacers team in whether they can succeed in “take care of business” games.