When: Tuesday, February 25th, 7:00 pm EST
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse; Indianapolis, IN
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA TV
The Hornets’ modest three-game win streak ended in Charlotte at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday. With the Pacers limping out of a 46-point loss to the Raptors in Toronto in which they lost Jeremy Lamb to a season-ending knee injury (he tore his ACL and meniscus while also fracturing his kneecap,) the Hornets have an opportunity to steal a game on the road and start a new win streak.
The contrast in the Hornets’ and Pacers’ respective styles of play is quite stark. These numbers pulled from stats.nba.com help demonstrate that;
3PA per game: Pacers 27.9 (25th), Hornets 34.4 (12th)
Team FG%: Pacers 47.4% (3rd), Hornets 43.3% (30th)
TO%: Pacers 13% (5th), Hornets 15.2% (25th)
AST/TO Ratio: Pacers 2.02 (1st), Hornets 1.60 (18th)
DEFRTG: Pacers 108.2 (11th), Hornets 112.9 (26th)
As one can infer, the Pacers play good defense, score efficiently and rarely give their opponents extra possessions by turning the ball over. If one were to look only at their last nine games, though, all of those metrics get worse. Indiana is 2-7 over those nine games, including losses to the lowly Knicks and Pelicans. They did beat the Bucks right before the All-Star break, but that game was buoyed by a 35 points from TJ Warren. Strangely enough, ever since Victor Oladipo returned to the lineup on Jan. 29, the Pacers are just 3-5 in the games he’s played in. It’s possible they right the ship in time to move up a seed or two for the playoffs, but time is ticking. They’re currently slated to face the Boston Celtics on the road in the first round, which I’m sure is far from their dream scenario.
The only Pacer listed on the team’s injury report is Lamb. The Hornets’ injury report is squeaky clean.
Indiana has a 2-1 lead in the season series with Charlotte, winning the two most-recent contests after the Hornets claimed a 122-120 win in overtime way back on Nov. 5. In their last matchup of the season, it will be interesting to see how the young Hornets match up with the Pacers. Replacing Marvin Williams with Jalen McDaniels in the big man rotation will have implications when McDaniels gets matched up with much bigger and stronger guys like Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. Oladipo is far too fast for any of the Hornets’ perimeter defenders — I imagine Cody Martin will have a few cracks at guarding him — and that will create another matchup problem that didn’t exist the last time they met in Jan. If the Hornets can get hot from beyond the arc and limit unprompted mistakes, they’ll have a good chance to make a game out of it. However, the Pacers are a very good defensive team, so there’s an equal chance that we could see one of those ugly Hornets games where they shoot sub-40% from the field and sub-30% from the arc and give up 115+ points. Only time will tell, though.
A win is a win, a loss is a loss, and both of them are fine by me.
EDIT: I just saw this tweet after I published the article. This is a homecoming of sorts for Indiana native and Hoosier alum Cody Zeller, and he’s celebrating the occasion by wearing some shoes inspired by drawings from kids in the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, In. Take what you think of his play out of the conversation for a moment; Zeller is a really good guy. He does stuff like this, both in Charlotte and on the road, all the time.
Born and raised in Indiana, @CodyZeller will honor kids from Riley Hospital for Children tonight as the @hornets face the Pacers.— Swarm To Serve (@HornetsGive) February 25, 2020
Cody’s sneakers were inspired by the drawings from the hospital’s pediatric patients. Cody will also be making a donation to the hospital! pic.twitter.com/maGx8t0SDI