Hornets-Pacers Preview

Myles Turner's emergence has given the Indiana Pacers a defensive presence inside while allowing Paul George to move more freely at the other end of the floor.

Turner wasn't at his best against Charlotte two weeks ago, though, and the Hornets took advantage.

Charlotte is fresh off having its winning streak snapped and looks to subdue Turner and the Pacers again as it continues a road trip Friday night.

Turner missed all but eight games over the first two months because of a fractured left thumb after being selected with the 11th pick in June's draft, then saw limited action through mid-January.

Coach Frank Vogel inserted Turner into the starting lineup for the last 12, though, and the 6-foot-11 forward had his best game in that stretch Wednesday, scoring 24 points while hitting 10 of 20 from the field as the Pacers (31-26) beat New York 108-105.

''Coach wants me to be aggressive and take those shots and I'm not drawing back,'' said Turner, who is averaging 17.0 points and shooting 55.6 percent over his last four. "That's just the mentality I have to start taking.''

George has benefited from the move, too. He finished with 27 points against the Knicks and has scored at least 20 in eight straight after adjusting through the first four with Turner in the starting lineup.

Indiana's new starting five has scored 102.2 points per 100 possessions when on the court together while giving up 85.2.

"Defensively, we get stops and rebounds. Myles gives us that presence," George said. "You still get that stretch offensively, with Myles being able to spread the floor. We still get that small-ball spacing, but we're still big. That's been enjoyable with this group."

Turner struggled against the Hornets on Feb. 10, going 4 of 11 from the field and scoring 10 points with a team-worst minus-18 rating in a 117-95 defeat that snapped the Pacers' 12-game home winning streak in the series.

That victory was part of a five-game win streak for Charlotte (29-27), but it had that run and a four-game road winning streak snapped with Wednesday's 114-103 loss to Cleveland. The defensive effort wasn't nearly as good following an eight-game stretch during which it allowed an average of 94.8 points.

"We've just got to lock back in and forget about this one," guard Kemba Walker said. "We'll learn from our mistakes and go to Indy and try to pull out a big win."

Walker is averaging 25.2 points over his last six - including having 25 in the first meeting with the Pacers - and shooting 55.3 percent over his past three. He's been the catalyst for Charlotte, which leads Detroit by one game for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot but is 1 1/2 behind Indiana for fifth.

The Hornets are 2-1 on a five-game, post-All-Star break trip that ends Sunday against Atlanta.

''For us, we wanted to make the playoffs. Our goals are A, to qualify for the playoffs, and B, be playing at a level to be a factor in the playoffs," coach Steve Clifford said. "There will be two to three teams in the conference that take off and play a lot better from here on out. We want to be one of them.''

Pacers guard Rodney Stuckey, who hasn't played since Jan. 12 because of a foot injury, could return.

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