Coming off of a 46-point loss of their own, the Indiana Pacers shellacked the Charlotte Hornets, winning by 39 points behind a near-triple-double from Domantas Sabonis with a final score of 119-80.
Malik Monk is not a nervous man. Less than a minute into his first career NBA start, he went coast-to-coast for a layup to score the first points of the game. Miles Bridges started off hot, making his first three shots, but the Pacers started even hotter. They led 28-16 with 2:50 to go in the quarter, making 78.6% of their field goals as a team to that point. Myles Turner blocked four shots on his own and TJ Warren scored nine points. Miles finished the first with 11 points and 3 rebounds. He and Malik were the only two Hornets to do anything notable in the quarter, and the Hornets trailed 35-25.
The Pacers got off to an 11-0 run to start the second frame, mostly due to some really bad/lazy transition defense from the Hornets. James Borrego whipped out a zone defense to no avail, and with 7:29 remaining, Indiana led 51-27. Miles continued to attack the basket in the second quarter, which he finished with a game-high 17 points to go with three boards. He was really the only bright spot for the Hornets in an inefficient, rhythmless first half. Going into the break, the Pacers were up 69-44 behind 15 points each from TJ Warren (who may qualify as a Hornets Killer now) and Sabonis. Myles Turner blocked six shots in 15 minutes. As a team, they shot 67.5% from the field and 66.7% (8-12) from beyond the arc. The Hornets had no answer whatsoever for Indiana.
The second half started similarly to the second quarter; with the Pacers going on a run. This time, it was a 12-2 run that put them up 79-46 before Borrego called for a timeout. Joe Chealey found himself on the floor coming out of the timeout, and at one point, there was a Chealey/Jalen McDaniels/Cody Martin/Caleb Martin/Bismack Biyombo lineup on the floor. That was a real thing that happened in an NBA basketball game in the year 2020. Everything unraveled in the third, with Indiana flirting with a 40-point lead for most of the quarter. It was 93-55 in favor of the Pacers going into the fourth, and they were led by 21 points, 12 boards and six assists from Sabonis while Turner set a career-high with eight blocks. Miles held steady, leading the Hornets with 17 points.
Things did not differ much from the rest of the night in the fourth quarter. The Hornets continued to shoot poorly from the field, the Pacers got whatever shot they wanted, and Charlotte’s young players got extended minutes. With 6:17 to go, Indiana led 106-65 as Pacers coach Nate MacMillan called a mercy timeout. After some back-and-forth garbage time, he Hornets closed out the final minutes with a lineup of Chealey/Ca. Martin/Co. Martin/McDaniels/Willy Hernangomez. That’s a “player development” lineup if I’ve ever seen one. Charlotte narrowly escaped a 40-point loss as the game ended with a final score of 119-80. Miles Bridges scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds to lead the Hornets.
This was mostly a bad game, but there are a few parting notes; the first being that Caleb Martin received a career-high 26 minutes of playing time. Him, his brother Cody, and Jalen McDaniels have all seen an increase in trust from Borrego as the season comes to a close, and that’s definitely a good thing. Now, they get to see what they have to work with in the future. The lineup choices were mentioned multiple times in this recap — I know some commenters were looking at a possible playoff run — and if we learned anything from them, it’s that the Hornets are not going to push to win games for the rest of the year. This is a full-steam-ahead youth movement. Speaking of which, this seems like it would’ve been a good night to call up Dwayne Bacon and give him some run after showing out in Greensboro, but apparently the organization had other plans.
Devonte’ Graham was sorely missed, not even for his obvious scoring ability, but his playmaking. The offense looked slow, clunky, and had no purpose at times. There was a lot of dribble, drive, kick-out, dribble, drive, kick-out, dribble, drive, kick-out, etc. that resulted in little success. Let’s hope he plays tomorrow and can rid himself of the shooting woes he’s had since early-January. Regardless, this was a bad loss numbers-wise but hopefully it helped drive home how much losing stinks to the younger guys. Moral victories are definitely a thing here. We want to be able to enjoy ourselves, don’t we?