Hoping a Star Wars-themed night would bring good fortunes to Indiana, the Pacers took on the Charlotte Hornets for the third time this season.
However, the Hornets proved why they are one of the top-scoring teams in the league. Terry Rozier continued his hot streak for the visitors and tallied 35 points to lead Charlotte (19-17) to a 116-108 victory over the Blue & Gold. He finished 13-of-23 from the floor, including 5-of-9 from deep.
The Pacers (14-21) saw an early lead fall by the wayside and never return. After trailing by as many as 18 in the first half, the squad battled back to cut the deficit to as few as four. But Rozier stifled any comeback attempts with the 3-ball.
"It's difficult to play from behind," Rick Carlisle said postgame. "If you're unable to start out the right way, it makes it tough."
In total, six Pacers finished in double figures. Caris LeVert led the way with 27 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. Myles Turner and Oshae Brissett added 14 apiece, and Domantas Sabonis added 15 and a game-high 18 boards.
Early in the first, the Hornets erased Indiana's slim lead by crashing the offensive glass. With Indiana ahead 7-3, the visitors mounted a 16-3 run over a 3:40 span to grab a 19-10 advantage with 6:13 to play.
A pair of triples by Justin Holiday and Brissett helped Indiana cut the deficit to five for a brief moment. However, the Pacers had trouble stopping Rozier.
Coming off a 27-point performance, including seven made 3-point shots, the six-year veteran knocked in seven unanswered points to extend the Hornets' lead to 28-16 with 4:28 left. Over his past three games, Rozier has been shooting nearly 50 percent from beyond the arc.
Down the stretch of the first quarter, the Pacers managed to cut into Charlotte's lead. Trailing 33-20, Chris Duarte tallied four of a 7-1 Indiana run in the final 1:34 of the frame to cut the deficit to 34-27.
After Sabonis knocked in a pair at the charity stripe, Charlotte responded with six straight to extend their lead to 40-29 at the 9:46 mark. During the run, Indiana appeared to have trouble stopping the visitors in the paint.
Over the next few minutes, the Pacers kept Charlotte's lead between seven and 11, finding constant success on the offensive end. However, the Hornets kept finding answers from nearly every area from the floor. A three-point play from Nick Richards then pushed Charlotte's advantage to 56-42 with 6:17 remaining.
From there, the Hornets kept a comfortable double-digit lead over Indiana until the end of the half. The Blue & Gold had a chance to go into the break with some momentum after notching five straight in the final 37.6 seconds. But Ball dropped in a turnaround jumper with 1.3 seconds remaining to give the visitors a 71-57 edge at halftime.
Indiana kept up the pressure in the early moments of the third, cutting the lead to 10 on two occasions. At the 9:47 mark, Sabonis attempted to energize the squad with a powerful left-handed slam over the head of Mason Plumlee.
However, the Hornets calmly extended the lead again, using a 5-0 spree to earn an 80-65 edge with 7:20 remaining.
As the midway mark passed, Indiana had several chances to shrink the lead to single digits but came up empty. With 5:31 remaining, Brissett could not covert the free-throw on a three-point play. 0:32 later, LeVert connected on 1-of-2 free-throw attempts to cut the lead to 84-74. Then, with 4:06 left, Sabonis missed the mark on two more free-throw attempts, leaving the score stagnant.
Finally, with a roar from the crowd, Kelan Martin knocked in his first bucket of the game — a triple from the left side — to cut the deficit to 84-77 with 3:02 remaining.
With less than a minute to play, the Pacers kept on fighting. Trailing 87-77, Brissett added five unanswered, including a clean three from the right elbow, to cut Charlotte's lead to five with 33.9 seconds remaining. However, Hayward earned the last laugh for the Hornets. The Indianapolis native banked in an errant triple with 13.6 seconds left to give the visitors a 90-82 lead entering the final frame. It was the only triple of the frame for Charlotte.
The Pacers quickly cut the deficit to four behind a pair of threes from Brissett and Martin, followed by a wide-open flush from Torrey Craig with 9:50 to play. However, Hayward and Kelly Oubre Jr. teamed up for five unanswered quickly to push the visitors' lead back to 99-90 with 8:32 left.
As the midway mark passed, the Pacers continued to keep Charlotte within sight. Ball's tip layup pushed Charlotte's edge to 101-92, but LeVert responded with three free throws to cut the lead to six. With 5:33 remaining, Craig added two more from the charity stripe to make it a 101-97 ballgame.
After Charlotte pushed the lead back to eight, Martin's trey from the right corner cut the lead back down to 105-100 at the 4:21 mark.
With 3:12 to play, Indiana earned a jump ball after the big men clogged the paint. Turner attempted to tip the ball to LeVert, but Caleb Martin stepped in front and snagged it. Martin found Rozier beyond the arc, and Rozier drilled the bucket, pushing the lead back to eight. LeVert responded with a triple of his own. But 16 seconds later, Rozier drained another from long range.
Turner's three at the 1:13 mark trimmed the Hornets' lead to 111-106 and gave Indiana one last chance. However, Ball fired a dime to Plumlee for a dunk, pushing the lead back to seven with 50.5 seconds remaining. The flush essentially put Indiana's comeback hopes to bed.
Inside the Numbers
Domantas Sabonis finished with 16 or more rebounds in a game for the fifth time this season.
The Pacers lost the rebounding battle, 48-45. Coming into Wednesday, the Hornets ranked 24th in the NBA in rebounding (43.6 per game).
Charlotte outscored Indiana in the paint, 54-32. Entering Wednesday, the Hornets were giving up an average of 47.6 points in the paint to opponents.
Indiana's comeback attempt started on the defensive end. The squad limited Charlotte to just 45 second-half points/
You Can Quote Me On That
"We just got to come out with energy. That first half compared to the second half was completely different, defensively. It was 71 points to 45. So we just have to find a way to get mad and compete throughout the whole game." –Sabonis on the team struggling in the first half
"We have no margin for error with this team. We've got to be efficient. We've got to be rebounding at a high rate. We lost the boards tonight. And that's something that's been a real strength of ours...Big problems are solved in small steps. And we really fell short on all the small steps tonight." –Carlisle on the team's struggles to put together a full game
"I love basketball. I love playing. This is my whole life ever since I was a youngin. Once I look across the court, I see guys like (Kelly Oubre Jr.) — a guy that I grew up with in high school. We were on the same team. (He’s) someone that I love watching play. I know this is where I need to be. This is where I worked so hard to be at. So when I go out there, I don’t want to leave anything out there. I want to go hard. I want to be myself." –Brissett on playing with spirit in every game
Stat of the Night
The Hornets scored 71 first-half points on 59.1 percent shooting. It was the second time this season a Pacers opponent scored 70 or more points in the first half.
- After playing professionally in seven different countries, Keifer Sykes earned the first NBA appearance of his career. He played 10:06 of game time and finished with two assists, one rebound, and a +2 rating.
- In honor of Star Wars Night, Myles Turner showed up to Gainbridge Fieldhouse in a full Darth Vader costume and flanked by two stormtroopers.
- Indiana has lost five straight regular season games against the Hornets.
The Pacers close out 2021 by hosting Zach LaVine and the Chicago Bulls for New Year's Eve on Friday, Dec. 31 at 3:00 PM ET. Find Tickets »