Pacers heat up in win over Hornets, now face Ja, Grizz in Memphis
Pacers look for back-to-back dubs as they work to get back on track.
The Pacers reestablished their game at both ends of the floor on Wednesday night, beating the struggling Hornets, 144-113.
After losing their prior four games with mass amounts of defensive breakdowns, the Pacers were able to practice on their off day to reinforce expectations for playing winning basketball. Even though it is still just December, this was a ‘must win’ type of game considering the upcoming schedule and the way the Pacers were struggling.
Eventually the win was easy, but it took awhile to get going. The Pacers didn’t score for two minutes to start the game until Myles Turner made a three-pointer. The fact that Turner made the shot was good news, since it meant big 33 was back in the lineup after a balky hammy kept him our against the Clips. Even better news, Jalen Smith was also available and played a few minutes.
The Pacers made only 3 of 12 three-point shots in the first quarter but took a 31-29 lead after one quarter. Then things started clicking and the Fieldhouse was ready to rock. The home team scored 40 points in the second quarter thanks to a boost off the bench. Smith, Bennedict Mathurin and Aaron Nesmith all found the range from behind the arc, combining to make all 5 of their 3PAs in the quarter.
The stress of the losing streak stared oozing out and the Pacers were once again comfortable playing at a fast pace while also keeping the Hornets in check. Charlotte misses LaMelo Ball running the team which now relies on a solid group of veteran players along with dynamic rookie Brandon Miller. But without the lead dog, they play more like a misfit group, not better than the sum of their parts. The Pacers were able to take advantage.
Buddy Hield found the range to ignite a big third quarter in which the Pacers pushed out the lead and killed the Hornets’ will to combat. Hield made 4 of 5 threes after missing three in the first half and finished the game with 25 points. Along with healthy bigs, Buddy getting on a heater also makes winning much easier for the Pacers. Tyrese Haliburton had four turnovers but finished with 19 points and 13 assists, doing his standard All-Star stuff to entertain the Fieldhouse faithful.
The Pacers quickly moved on to Memphis both physically and mentally with a back-to-back against the Grizzlies on Thursday night. While the Grizz have struggled this season, Ja Morant is back after a 25-game suspension. He scored 35 points including a buzzer beating game winner on Tuesday night at New Orleans. This will be his first game at home in what should be an electric environment.
The Pacers are desperate for some consistency and they will have to match the focus and attention to detail they showed at home on Wednesday. The benefit of the blowout win was that no one played over 30 minutes. Also, a look at the injury report now has Andrew Nembhard listed as questionable. A similar change on Wednesday for Turner and Stix saw them available by game time. Any minutes Nembhard could add would be welcomed against the dynamic backcourt players the Grizz will roll out.
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
When: Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023, 8:00 p.m. ET
TV: Bally Sports
Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan
Pacers: Tyrese Haliburton, Bruce Brown, Buddy Hield, Obi Toppin, Myles Turner
Grizzlies: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Vince Williams Jr., Jaren Jackson Jr., Bismack Biyombo
Pacers: Myles Turner (hammy) - questionable, Andrew Nembhard (knee) - questionable, Jalen Smith (knee/heel) - questionable, Ben Sheppard (G League) - out, Jarace Walker (G League) - out
Grizzlies: Marcus Smart (foot sprain) - doubtful, Steven Adams (knee) - out, Brandon Clarke (Achilles) - out, Luke Kennard (knee bone bruise) - out, Jake LaRavia (G League) - out, Derrick Rose (hamstring) - out
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