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Quickcap: Hornets have defensive miscues late, fall to Pacers 103-102

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Without Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, or Bismack Biyombo, the Hornets struggled down the stretch defensively against a scrappy Pacers squad, eventually falling on a late George Hill game-winner.

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes in the NBA, it just comes down to who has the best injury luck. The Hornets only started one player – Al Jefferson – that was in their original starting five at the beginning of the season. Tonight, he was joined by Brian Roberts, Gerald Henderson, Jeff Taylor, and Cody Zeller in the starting lineup.

And it worked, at least for a while. The Hornets looked better on offense than they have a many points this season, with Jefferson dominating in the post, Henderson creating on the wing, and Roberts hitting 3-pointers when kicked out to him. All this led to a 56-point first half and had the Hornets up 17 at the break.

In the third quarter, the Hornets weathered runs by the Pacers and ballooned the lead up to above 20 at a time. However, the Pacers started chipping away and had just enough possessions to steal the game late. On the Hornets second-to-last offensive possession, they were down by two and got a very clutch basket from Marvin Goggles.

The very next possession, Roberts and Zeller had a miscommunication about whether Zeller would switch onto George Hill or if Roberts would take him back and it led to an easy, short game-winning shot by Hill.

It’s easy to blame the game on that one possession, but it was really just one of many defensive breakdowns down the stretch for Charlotte, who has boasted easily the league’s best defense since the start of 2015. However, with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on the bench tonight, both Gary Neal and Jeff Taylor had to be out on the floor for key possessions. Whether it was Hill getting into the middle of the floor or finding a shooter due to poor rotation by Charlotte, it’s easy to think that this game would have been different with their defensive specialist.

And hopefully they can get some health back soon. The Hornets were looking good just a couple games ago in terms of making the playoffs and even holding onto the seventh seed. However, their room for error is now even smaller. These very Pacers are inching closer and are rumored to have Paul George returning. Hopefully this game or against Philly earlier this week won’t come back to haunt the Hornets late in the season.

Up next, the Pistons on Tuesday at 7pm.