By Conrad Brunner
With Charlotte's 97-91 loss to Washington Sunday, the Pacers' magic number for clinching their first playoff berth in five years shrank to three, but that was the only good news. Indiana fell behind by double figures in the first quarter and could not climb out of the hole in losing 108-96 to the Hornets before 13,898 in New Orleans Arena.
Chris Paul had 18 points and eight assists for the Hornets, while Emeka Okafor had 14 points and a season-high rebounds as New Orleans dominated the boards 48-33.
Mike Dunleavy and Danny Granger scored 15 apiece for the Pacers.
Indiana's three-game win streak was snapped and its overall record fell to 35-43, 13-27 on the road. The Pacers finished the season 9-21 against Western Conference teams, 2-13 on the road. They're 18-16 under interim coach Frank Vogel. New Orleans improved to 3-2 since losing star forward David West to a knee injury and is 44-33 overall, 26-12 at home.
- "Tough loss for us. Obviously a missed opportunity as we're closing down on the playoff chase. Credit to New Orleans. They played an excellent basketball game. They were too much for us tonight." -- Vogel
- "We played a very poor defensive game. We had some slippage. We were very good against Milwaukee. I don't really have an answer why we showed up defensively like we did tonight as opposed to what we did against Milwaukee. We weren't very good defensively tonight." -- Vogel
- "Everything we improved upon from the Detroit game to the Milwaukee game, you drill that stuff and they hear it for two days straight but then if you're not drilling it in practice -- we had an off day yesterday, I felt like our guys needed rest -- they don't carry over to the basketball court. It's something veteran basketball teams can handle better but our young guys, we just didn't have it tonight." -- Vogel
STAT OF THE GAME
The Hornets shot 51.2 percent, the fourth opponent in the last five games to shoot at least 51 percent against the Pacers.
With Okafor setting the tone inside right away and Paul controlling the tempo, the Hornets jumped out to a 26-16 lead in the first quarter and stretched it to 35-21 early in the second.
Down 57-44 at halftime, the Pacers were quickly buried when New Orleans started the third quarter with a 13-2 run in which all five starters made at least one basket, extending the lead to 70-46.
The Hornets were cruising, up 101-80 with 5:44 remaining when Dunleavy, who scored 13 in the fourth quarter, sparked a 13-2 run that cut the lead to 103-92 with 3:08 left. But James Posey missed an open 3-pointer that could've made it a single-digit deficit and the Hornets closed it out at the line.
BY THE NUMBERS
Granger shot 5-of-11, 1-of-4 form the arc, with four rebounds and zero assists with his 15 points. Dunleavy shot 4-of-7, 2-of-3 from the arc, to score his 15 in 21 minutes off the bench. A.J. Price had 12 points and six assists, while Darren Collison had 10 points and five dimes. Roy Hibbert, unable to contend with Okafor's strength inside, played just 21 minutes, producing 10 points and six rebounds. The Pacers shot 45.7 percent and hoisted 26 from the 3-point line, making nine.
Trevor Ariza scored a game-high 19 for the Hornets, adding nine rebounds and three assists, Paul shot 8-of-13 for his 18 points. Carl Landry shot 6-of-9 from the field and 6-of-7 from the line to score 18 with eight rebounds, and Okafor bulled his way to 6-of-11 shooting to accompany his 14-point, 17-rebound double-double. Jarrett Jack scored 11 off the bench.
- The Hornets got a scare with 6:25 left in the second quarter when Paul tumbled to the floor in pain after tangling feet with Indiana's Jeff Foster. He needed help to make it back to the bench but returned to the gem with 3:38 left in the period.
- Posey played for the first time in 12 games, producing four points and three rebounds in 12 minutes, and made his first free throw since Feb. 22.
- With two steals, Paul became the fastest to 2,000 career steals in NBA history, reaching that total in his 420th game.
- Landry, the former Purdue standout, has averaged 20.2 points and 6.4 rebounds in five starts since West was injured.
- This was the sixth time in eight games the Pacers fell behind by double-digits in the first half. They came back to win four of the previous five.
The Pacers open their final homestand of the season, a three-game stretch, Wednesday against John Wall and the Washington Wizards (7 p.m., Fox Sports Indiana, WIBC 93 FM). Tickets: Buy now | College night | Kroger Plus Night