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HORNETS VS. PACERS
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
April 3, 2011

On the penultimate Sunday of the 2010-11 NBA regular season, the Hornets play the last of their 30 games against an Eastern Conference opponent, hosting the Indiana Pacers in the Hive. Entering Sundays game, New Orleans was 18-11 vs. clubs representing the East, including 2-0 sweeps over Orlando and Atlanta, along with one victory apiece over elite squads Boston and Miami.

At press time, the Pacers were grasping on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, attempting to hold off close pursuers Charlotte and Milwaukee. Indiana is seeking its first postseason appearance since 2006. Over the past four NBA campaigns, the Pacers have often been in contention to reach the East playoffs, but ended up falling just short each time, with victory totals of 35, 36, 36 and 32. As a result of the playoff drought, Indianas best player and leading scorer New Orleans native Danny Granger has only appeared in six career playoff games, with each of those taking place during his rookie year of 2005-06.

Indiana appeared on its way to a fifth straight non-playoff season midway through 2010-11, when it slumped to a 17-27 record. However, the Pacers decision to hire interim head coach Frank Vogel in late January produced immediate results. Through the end of March, Indiana had gone 16-15 under Vogel.

The Pacers and Hornets met once previously this season, with Indiana eking out a dramatic, 94-93 triumph at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Pacers swingman Mike Dunleavy provided the heroics for the home team, tipping in an offensive rebound just before time expired.



INTRIGUING MATCH-UP


Point Guard, Chris Paul vs. Darren Collison
Teammates with the Hornets a season ago, Collison wound up receiving considerably more playing time than expected due to a series of injuries to Paul, who was sidelined for a total of 37 games. Collison used the extensive opportunity to show that he deserved a chance to be a full-time starter in the NBA, which the Pacers have granted the second-year pro. During the Dec. 20 matchup between New Orleans and Indiana, Collison held his own against his former mentor, tallying 18 points, five rebounds and five assists. Paul posted 15 points, four rebounds and four assists.



HORNETS.COM SCOUTING REPORT
A closer look at the Indiana Pacers:


Danny Granger


Roy Hibbert

GUARDS
The Hornets chose Darren Collison as the No. 21 pick of the 2009 NBA Drafts first round, then watched the UCLA product blossom into an effective option at point guard. Following a myriad of injuries that sidelined Chris Paul last season, Collison made 37 starts for New Orleans and provided one bright spot during a disappointing Hornets campaign. The Hornets parlayed Collisons All-Rookie team debut season into an August 2010 trade that netted NOLA its current starting forward, Trevor Ariza. Collison has averaged about 13 points and five assists in his first season as a Pacer, emerging as the teams second-leading scorer (behind Danny Granger).

Third-year shooting guard Brandon Rush has had a fluctuating role in 2010-11, but has settled into the starting lineup recently. The University of Kansas product is one of Indianas most dangerous perimeter threats, shooting over 40 percent from the three-point arc.

Another player among a large group of Pacers who came from a decorated collegiate program, UConn product A.J. Price backs up Collison at point guard. The elevation of Price to second-string point guard coincided with seven-year pro T.J. Ford seeing a significantly reduced role.

Mike Dunleavy scored the game-winning basket vs. New Orleans on Dec. 20 in Indianapolis, a tip-in at the buzzer that was close to a goaltending violation. The Duke University product had been out due to injury since late February but returned to action on Wednesday in a victory over Detroit, scoring nine points.

Defensive pest Dahntay Jones is in his second season with the Pacers. He was a starter for Denver during the Nuggets 2009 first-round series triumph over the Hornets.

FORWARDS
One of the most accomplished players among a growing number of Louisiana natives to make it to the NBA, Danny Granger was born in New Orleans and starred in high school at Grace King in Metairie. The high-scoring small forward is on pace to average over 20 points per game for the third consecutive season. During the 2008-09 campaign, the 6-foot-9, 228-pounder was named an Eastern Conference All-Star and also received the NBAs Most Improved Player award. Granger is the first player in NBA history to increase his scoring average at least five points per game in three consecutive seasons, perhaps the best evidence of his work ethic and knack for improvement.

Like current Indiana teammate Darren Collison, James Posey was a member of the Hornets last season. The 12-year veteran signed as a free agent with the Hornets following the Celtics 2008 championship run. Poseys playing time has dipped considerably in Indiana since the coaching change from Jim OBrien to Vogel.

A household name in college at North Carolina, Tyler Hansbrough suffered through an injury-hit rookie season in 2009-10. The 6-foot-9 power forward has broken through with several impressive games in Year 2, however, frequently depositing 20-plus points. In consecutive victories over the Knicks in mid-March, Hansbrough tallied 29 and 30 points.

Like Hansbrough, athletic rookie Paul George figures to be a prominent part of the future for the youthful Pacers. The Fresno State product has made major strides as the season progressed and his playing time increased.

Duke University product Josh McRoberts has started the majority of the Pacers games this season at power forward, providing athleticism, rebounding and efficient scoring.

CENTERS
At 7-foot-2, 278 pounds, Roy Hibbert is a difficult matchup size-wise for many opposing centers. Hibbert is one of the most effective back-to-the-basket centers in the league, often relying on hook shots to score from close range. The Georgetown University alum was an integral part of the Pacers surprising start to the regular season, but has struggled at times with foul trouble, leading to inconsistency.

Now in Year No. 12 with the Pacers, reliable backup Jeff Foster is fifth among active NBA players in tenure with their current teams. Only Kobe Bryant (15 years), Tim Duncan (14), Dirk Nowitzki (13) and Paul Pierce (13) have spent more time with their NBA franchise.


Players the IND/NOH want shooting free throws in a close game
PACERS HORNETS
Darren Collison
Danny Granger
James Posey
Tyler Hansbrough
Paul George
86.2
84.4
82.0
78.0
75.3
Chris Paul
Jarrett Jack
Marco Belinelli
Carl Landry
Willie Green
85.4
85.0
80.3
77.2
75.3
If the IND/NOH need a three-pointer, their best options are
PACERS HORNETS
Brandon Rush
Danny Granger
Darren Collison
James Posey
Josh McRoberts
39.9
38.4
37.3
34.9
33.0
Marco Belinelli
Chris Paul
Jarrett Jack
Quincy Pondexter
Willie Green
39.7
36.0
35.0
34.8
31.7
Career FT percentage (through March 29) Career three-point percentage (through March 29)




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