The Indiana Pacers welcome to Indianapolis on Sunday a Charlotte Hornets team seeking back-to-back wins for the first time since November.
Charlotte comes into its second game of a four-game road trip off of a 138-109 rout of Milwaukee. Terry Rozier scored 39 points, LaMelo Ball added 24 points and 12 assists, and P.J. Washington contributed 23 points as the Hornets posted their highest single-game point total of the season.
Charlotte also ended a three-game losing skid with Friday’s outcome. The Hornets dropped five of six games going into the road swing, and 14 of 17 going back to Dec. 3.
“We’re talented. We’ve got a lot of guys (who) can score,” Rozier told Bally Sports in his postgame interview. “It’s no surprise we got (138 points). Having that defensive effort, that’s going to make us the team that we want to be.”
The scoring variety Rozier cited is reflected in Charlotte boasting three scorers averaging more than 20 points per game this season: Ball at 23.7 in 16 games played, Rozier at 20.7 and Kelly Oubre Jr. with 20.2.
Continuing the level of defensive performance the Hornets showed in Milwaukee is pivotal for them reversing the trajectory of their season. Charlotte ranks near the bottom of the NBA in points allowed per game at 118.2.
Indiana, meanwhile, ranks in the top third of scoring offenses with 115.6 points per game. The Pacers won four straight from Dec. 27 through Jan. 2 scoring at least 122 points in each, including a 135-point showing Dec. 29 against the league’s stingiest scoring defense, Cleveland.
After a 129-126 overtime loss Wednesday in Philadelphia, Indiana won its fifth decision in its last six outings on Friday with a stout defensive performance against Portland, winning 108-99.
The Pacers limited the Trail Blazers’ dynamic backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons to 19 points on 7-for-24 shooting from the floor for Lillard, and 20 points on 7-for-20 for Simons.
“Drew was amazing tonight, playing hard defense on Dame (Lillard),” Bennedict Mathurin said of teammate Andrew Nembhard in Friday’s postgame press conference. “We had a game plan coming into the game and we pretty much executed.”
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle drew a parallel to postseason basketball. And with Sunday’s matchup marking Indiana’s 41st game — exactly halfway through the regular season — surprising Indiana finds itself in that playoff conversation.
“When you get in the playoffs, you’ve got to find a way to win that’s not pretty. This was that kind of a game,” Carlisle said.
Friday’s showing on the defensive side of the floor was a positive for a defense ranked in the league’s lower half at 115.7 points allowed per game. Although the Pacers scored effectively in the five games preceding the Portland win, they surrendered between 114 to 130 points in all five contests.
Potent and balanced offense has buoyed Indiana, starting with All-Star candidate Tyrese Haliburton. Haliburton’s 20.4 points per game leads the team, and his 10.2 assists per contest lead the NBA. Buddy Hield, Mathurin and Myles Turner are averaging adding 17.9, 17.4 and 16.7 points per game, respectively.
–Field Level Media