When: 7:00 pm EST
Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, N.C.
How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
Outfitting: Hornets — Association (white); Pacers — Statement (yellow)
CHA: Gordon Hayward (left shoulder contusion), OUT; Cody Martin (left knee surgery), OUT; Dennis Smith Jr. (left ankle sprain), DOUBTFUL.
IND: Chris Duarte (right ankle sprain), OUT; James Johnson (sore back), DOUBTFUL; Daniel Theis (right knee surgery), OUT.
The Charlotte Hornets return home from a three-game Florida road trip to host the Indiana Pacers for a one-off game at the Spectrum Center.
After tonight’s game, the Hornets will head back out on the road for a few days before finally reaching a softer portion of the schedule travel-wise. Charlotte has played nine of 15 games on the road so far, which has only made the trek more difficult when compounded with the team’s injury woes.
Indiana has been one of the surprise teams in the early portion of the NBA season, compiling a 6-6 record behind a seventh-ranked offense and a frantic pace-and-space style that has them at third in three-point attempt rate (40.8 per game) and sixth in seconds per possession (13.7 per Inpredictable). The Pacers run, move the ball (first in assist percentage) and do not hesitate to let it fly from long-range, making for a fun watch given the strengths of the players on the roster.
Third-year guard Tyrese Haliburton looks like an All-Star candidate even amongst a deep crop of guards in the Eastern Conference, averaging 20.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and a league-leading 10.3 assists per game, all while shooting 42.9 percent from deep on high volume. Bennedict Mathurin, the sixth pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, is scoring 19.9 points per game and shooting a blistering 45.3 percent from deep as a reserve while flashing improved handles and drawing fouls at a higher rate than in college.
The Pacers have also gotten quality minutes from young role-players in Isaiah Jackson, Andrew Nembhard and Jalen Smith. Jackson is averaging 2.4 blocks and 1 steal per 36 minutes and shooting 76 percent at the rim per Cleaning The Glass, rookie second-rounder Nembhard has started three games already and scored in double-digits twice, and Smith is averaging 11 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in his first stint as a full-time starter.
Buddy Hield and Myles Turner are also contributing as it’s become abundantly clear in recent months that the Pacers aren’t opposed to moving them for the right price. Indiana has the 26th-ranked defense and four players shooting above 40 percent from beyond the arc; that very well may be sustainable for Haliburton and Hield, but with Duarte sidelined, it’s hard to imagine this level of team-wide success holding up for the entire season.
The Hornets finally got the monkey off their back when they beat Orlando on Monday. LaMelo Ball continues to settle back into his game, firing from deep with no hesitation and taking the risk for steals and deflections as an off-ball defender. It’s only been two games, and we knew how impactful he was already, but the positive influence that Melo has on the team is clear. There’s better spacing, more creative and spontaneous ball movement and generally more size on the court throughout the game. With a couple of subpar opponents coming up, there could be an opportunity for Melo to get himself and the team back in the swing of things.