INDIANAPOLIS – The NBA is one unpredictable league.
Facing a back-to-back on Friday and Saturday, the Pacers saw the road team playing on the back-to-back winning both games this weekend.
That meant a split for the undermanned Pacers (22-26).
Indiana’s woes at home continued on Friday, despite the Hornets playing on the road of a back-to-back.
Charlotte (25-23) got into the paint at will, scoring 114 points (114-97 final score) despite shooting just 8-of-31 from behind the arc. The Hornets had 7 players in double figures, building an 11-point halftime lead and then pulling away in the final quarter for the convincing victory.
With the defeat, the Pacers lost another tiebreaker to an Eastern Conference playoff foe.
The Pacers played without Malcolm Brogdon (sore hip). Charlotte was without LaMelo Ball (broken wrist) and Malik Monk (sprained ankle). Gordon Hayward didn’t play in the second half due to a foot sprain.
Without Brogdon, Indiana had 20 turnovers. The 5 Indiana starters combined to score just 50 points.
Indiana has now lost 8 of 9 at home.
Fortunately for the Pacers, they rebounded on Saturday with a 139-133 overtime victory over the Spurs.
Missing Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis (ankle), Indiana had to rely on some unsung names for the offensive explosion.
Caris LeVert led the scoring with 26 points on 10-of-29 shooting.
With LeVert running things at point guard, and T.J. McConnell causing problems for the Spurs, the Pacers shot 55.3 percent from the floor, 41.4 percent from behind the arc and made 23-of-26 from the foul line.
Bench contributions were massive on Saturday, with JaKarr Sampson, Goga Bitadze and Kelan Martin all stepping up big time.
The Pacers are off until a back-to-back Tuesday and Wednesday (Bulls and Timberwolves).
Three Things Learned
1. One For The Entire Roster: In an NBA regular season, you have nights like Saturday where you’re playing without arguably your best three players. There won’t be many nights, when the game is competitive, and where JaKarr Sampson, Goga Bitadze and Kelan Martin all play more than 15 minutes each. That occurred on Saturday with the bench absolutely delivering in the overtime win. Goga had 8 points and 7 rebounds as the backup center. Sampson added 7 points and 4 rebounds. And Martin saw rare playing time, knocking home 3 of 4 from behind the arc. Credit these guys, particularly Sampson and Martin, for being pros, staying ready and for the coaching staff having them prepared to contribute in an important bounce back road win.
2. Internal Questions: Following Friday’s loss to the Hornets, we heard probably the most honest comments from the Pacers this season. Caris LeVert called the effort ‘uninspired’ and even the ever-optimistic Nate Bjorkgren acknowledged some internal frustration that’s there right now. From a public standpoint, this isn’t something we had heard this season, at least to this extent. Despite the injury situation, no one expected Indiana to be in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference at this point of the season, particularly for this long of a stretch. How will the first-time NBA head coach handle his locker room? How will the players respond to this adversity? They handled it well on Saturday, when they were even more banged up. But this is something to watch over the final month and a half of the season.
3. Another Tiebreaker Lost: With Friday’s loss to the Hornets, the Pacers have now lost 3 of the 7 possible tiebreakers to the teams somewhat jumbled together from 4 to 11 in the East. Those lost tiebreakers are to the Bulls, Knicks, Hornets and Celtics. Indiana won the tiebreaker over the Heat and leads the Hawks series (1-0, with 2 games to go). They are tied with the Bulls and Raptors (both 1-1, with 1 game to go). Obviously, this isn’t ideal for a team a couple of games outside the No. 8 spot in the East. It’s going to take a serious flurry to climb out of the play-in group of teams (7 to 10 spots), with some less than favorable tiebreakers already there.
Pacers Upcoming Schedule
-Bulls (Tuesday, 4/6, at 7:00 PM)
-Timberwolves (Wednesday, 4/7, at 7:00 PM)
-@Magic (Friday, 4/9, at 7:00 PM)
-@Grizzlies (Sunday, 4/11, at 8:00 PM)
-Clippers (Tuesday, 4/13, at 7:30 PM)