Game Recap: Pacers 144, Hornets 117

Fueled by Doug McDermott's hot start, the Pacers never trail and lead by as many as 39 to earn a date with Washington for the right to face Philadelphia.

Postgame 210518

Scroll Video up Scroll Video down Scroll Video left Scroll Video right

Game Recap: Pacers 144, Hornets 117

Fueled by Doug McDermott's hot start, the Pacers never trail and lead by as many as 39 to earn a date with Washington for the right to face Philadelphia.
May 18, 2021  |  00:02

Postgame: Pacers Locker Room – May 18, 2021

May 18, 2021 – Nate Bjorkgren, Malcolm Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis, Doug McDermott, and Oshae Brissett speak with the media following Indiana’s 144-117 win in game one of the play-in tournament against the Charlotte Hornets.
May 18, 2021  |  02:09

Sabonis: 'I try to impact the game in different ways'

Domantas Sabonis speaks after leading the Pacers over the Hornets in the State Farm Play-In Tournament.
May 18, 2021  |  00:03

Domantas Sabonis records near triple-double vs. Hornets

All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis misses his latest triple-double by one assist with 14 points, 21 rebounds and nine dimes to lead the Pacers.
May 18, 2021  |  00:02

Martin Strong Slam

May 18, 2021: Kelan Martin throws down the strong one-handed slam.
May 18, 2021  |  00:09

Defense Leads to Brissett Dunk

May 18, 2021: The Pacers trap the ball and force the turnover, leading to a runout ending in a Oshae Brissett alley-oop from Aaron Holiday.
May 18, 2021  |  00:11

Brissett High Off the Glass

May 18, 2021: Oshae Brissett gets the floater to go high off the window.
May 18, 2021  |  00:08

Sabonis Pumps and Gets the Roll

May 18, 2021: Domantas Sabonis gets his man in the air and drives strong to the rim, where he gets the friendly roll.
May 18, 2021  |  00:11

Sabonis Baseline Pass to Brissett

May 18, 2021: Domantas Sabonis pulls off the perfect baseline bounce pass to Oshae Brissett, who finishes with a reverse layup.
May 18, 2021  |  00:07

Brogdon And-1

May 18, 2021: Malcolm Brogdon cuts in the lane and puts up the tough over-the-shoulder shot through contact.
May 18, 2021  |  00:08

Sumner Beats the Buzzer

May 18, 2021: Edmond Sumner puts up the floater and gets the roll to beat the 1st-quarter buzzer.
May 18, 2021  |  00:12

Brogdon Bounces It to Brissett For the Dunk

May 18, 2021: Malcolm Brogdon bounces it behind the defense to Oshae Brissett for the strong dunk.
May 18, 2021  |  00:11

Domas Feeds Doug For Three

May 18, 2021: Domantas Sabonis with the slick feed to Doug McDermott for the 3-pointer.
May 18, 2021  |  00:10

Pacers Emphatic About Not Wanting Season to End

by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor
@Wheat_Hotchkiss

As Pacers fans filled into Bankers Life Fieldhouse for Tuesday's do-or-die Play-In Tournament game against Charlotte, most Pacers fans didn't know what to expect.

Indiana fans are accustomed to seeing their team give it their all, but the 2020-21 Pacers have been ravaged by injuries all season and suffered yet another blow earlier on Tuesday, when star guard Caris LeVert was ruled out for the Play-In game due to the NBA's health and safety protocols.

While it wasn't stunning that the undermanned Pacers still had enough firepower to handle the Hornets, the manner in which they did was the latest plot twist in a season that has gone off script for months.

The Pacers raced out to an early lead and never let up, dominating the Hornets, 144-117. They never trailed, building a double-digit advantage less than four minutes in and never letting Charlotte back within single digits the rest of the way.

Indiana will now visit Washington for another Play-In game on Thursday with the winner of that earning the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and advancing to a best-of-seven first-round series with top seed Philadelphia.

"Any time in these games, I just feel like the team that wants to be here the most is going to win," Pacers forward Doug McDermott said. "I thought we really came out and we really showed that we're not going to give up, we're going to keep playing, and we want to keep playing for as long as possible."

The Pacers' desire to keep playing was on full display from the opening minutes on Tuesday.

There was Malcolm Brogdon, hoisting without hesitation and draining a three on Indiana's opening possession.

There was McDermott going full McBuckets in the opening minutes, running off screens like Reggie Miller and making four 3-pointers in the first 4:52.

There was Brogdon again, pushing the break and dishing to a cutting Oshae Brissett on the baseline for a thunderous right-hand slam.

And there was Edmond Sumner, knifing through the defense in the final seconds of the first quarter and throwing up a right-handed floater that did a complete revolution around the cylinder, crawled down the back plate of the rim, touched the backboard, and then fell back through the net. By that point, Sumner was already high-stepping his way to the Pacers' bench, bouncing off his teammates with the energy of a toddler who found an unattended bag of marshmallows.

It all added up to a 40-point first quarter for the Pacers and a 16-point lead.

They only built on that in the second quarter, pushing the margin to 69-45 by halftime, just pummeling the Hornets in a way they haven't done in a half in months against real NBA competition (the tanking Thunder, who they admittedly shellacked by 57 in Oklahoma City on May 1, don't quite fit that description).

It didn't matter that the Pacers were missing LeVert or that their lone All-Star, Domantas Sabonis, scored just two points on 1-of-8 shooting in the first half (though he did tally 12 rebounds and five assists). Indiana was playing inspired basketball and Charlotte never was able to rise to match the Blue & Gold's energy.

The enthusiasm wasn't just reserved to those in uniform, either. After Justin Holiday hit two 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions late in the third quarter, his injured teammates Myles Turner and Jeremy Lamb (along with resting Brogdon and McDermott) sprinted from their seats on the bench and onto the baseline in celebration.

They remained there for the final minute and a half of the frame and when T.J. McConnell swished a fadeaway jumper on the baseline at the third quarter buzzer, Turner was the first player out on the court, his fist aloft.

Domantas Sabonis, Cody Zeller

Photo Credit: Matt Kryger

Even as Bjorkgren emptied his bench in the fourth quarter, the Pacers never let their foot off the gas. Rookie Cassius Stanley intercepted his former Duke teammate Vernon Carey Jr.'s pass with 4:08 left, then took off for a signature dunk for his first postseason points. On the next trip down the floor, Goga Bitadze blocked Nick Richards, then Aaron Holiday scooped up the ball and pushed the break, dishing to Kelan Martin for a transition three that stretched the lead to...THIRTY-NINE.

"Everybody got going," Brogdon said. "It's the best when all your teammates get to score and get to have fun and everybody's standing up on the bench. I thought we had fun tonight and everybody contributed."

Eight players scored in double figures for Indiana, including all five starters. Brissett, who wasn't even on an NBA roster before signing a 10-day contract on April 1, started and had a team-high 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting. McDermott scored 20 of his 21 points in the first half, while McConnell had 17 points, five rebounds, three assists, and four steals off the bench.

Perhaps the most underrated performance belonged to Sabonis. The Hornets packed the paint against Indiana's All-Star, but he kept his head down and made the right reads, finding other ways to make his presence felt. He pulled down 21 rebounds, dished out nine assists, and managed to score 12 points in the second half after being held to just two through the first two quarters.

"There's many ways to impact the game," Sabonis said. "As one of the leaders, you always have to be able to do that. So setting up teammates, rebounding, pushing the ball, playing tough on defense, there's many things to basketball.

"Doing that and getting everybody else going got us the win."

Brodgon, meanwhile, didn't have to worry about logging heavy minutes in his first game since April 29. He finished with 16 points and eight assists in just 21:20 and was able to sit out the final quarter and a half, preserving some stamina for Thursday.

"I thought guys that hadn't played in a while came out and did a really nice job," Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren said. "Aaron Holiday's been out, Edmond Sumner's been out, Malcolm Brogdon has been out.

"I want to give a lot of credit to our training staff, our strength staff, our assistant coaches just for keeping all these guys ready and battling through these injuries to get these guys ready to play. They've done a heck of job and the players have done a heck of a job conditioning-wise and mentally."

Bjorkgren said he learned the news about LeVert a little before noon on Monday, giving him just a handful of hours to prepare for his unexpected absence (McDermott, who doesn't check his phone on game days, didn't learn about LeVert until he arrived at the arena in the afternoon). The protocols forced LeVert to remain away from the team, but Bjorkgren was able to speak with him on the phone after he learned he would be out.

"He's hurt," Bjorkgren said. "He's crushed. He wants to be out there, especially (after) all that he's gone through this year with the trade and the surgery and not joining us until after the All-Star break and then how he's been playing – he's been playing great...He was really gearing up and going to be ready for this one."

LeVert will not be available on Thursday, but if the Pacers can repeat Tuesday's performance, they might not need him to reach the playoffs for the sixth straight year and the 10th time in the last 11 seasons.

"You want to bring your best for games like that when it's on the biggest stage," McDermott said. "I thought we all did that and we were clicking on all cylinders...hopefully we can carry that over to the next game because we know it's an even bigger stage."

Related Content

NEXT UP:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter