The Indiana Pacers answered their worst loss in 33 years with their largest margin of victory of the season.
Now the Pacers aim to record their fourth win in five outings and snap a five-game losing skid in the series with the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday when the clubs meet in Indianapolis.
All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis helped Indiana recover following a 127-81 shellacking at Toronto on Sunday, recording 21 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists two nights later in a 119-80 romp over Charlotte.
“From the first possession, we just made them feel us (defensively),” Sabonis said via FOX Sports Indiana. “We were on every catch pursuing them and that kind of set the tone for everybody else then the second unit followed. It just went smoothly.”
Sabonis, whose father Arvydas played for the Trail Blazers, registered his second career triple-double with 27 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists in the Pacers’ 139-129 setback in Portland on Jan. 26. The younger Sabonis has since notched two more triple-doubles before nearly collecting his fifth on Tuesday.
Indiana, which had six players post double-digit point totals, shot 57.0 percent from the floor and led the Hornets by as many as 43 points in the fourth quarter to put the rout by the Raptors in its rear-view mirror.
“I didn’t see the Toronto game coming, where we never really established ourselves,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “I really felt that we were going to go up there and win that game. I felt we could beat that team, but they totally smacked us.
“But I loved our response (Tuesday). We were all about business and we put together a really solid 48-minute game and I thought we were connected out there at both ends of the floor and it looked like they were having some fun but without trying to embarrass anyone.”
The Trail Blazers haven’t been having much fun on the road, losing four straight away from the Rose City and 20 of 30 on the season entering the opener of a three-game trek on Thursday.
Portland fell for the fourth time in its last five outings overall with a 118-106 setback to Boston on Tuesday.
“It’s our reality, so we’ve got to figure out how to get as many wins as possible, starting in Indiana and progressing forward,” guard CJ McCollum said.
McCollum has stepped up in the absence of injured All-Star Damian Lillard (groin), averaging 32.0 points, 10.7 assists and 6.3 rebounds in his last three games — including 28, 10 and four against the Celtics.
The 28-year-old McCollum had 28 points in the previous encounter with the Pacers while Hassan Whiteside had 21 and 14 rebounds. Whiteside had 18 and 19, respectively, versus Boston for his seventh straight double-double.
Lillard’s availability for the team’s three-game road trip has yet to be decided, according to coach Terry Stotts. He is not expected to play Thursday.
“At this point, I’m not sure. I think we’re discussing that,” Stotts said of the 29-year-old Lillard, who averages team-best totals in points (29.5) and assists (7.9).
–Field Level Media