INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The Indiana Pacers and Charlotte Hornets closed out a two-game series with each other. In the first matchup, the Pacers came out on top 116-106 but fell short 108-105 in Friday's showdown.
In the early part of this game, both teams managed to trade blows but didn't quite run away with an advantage. Charlotte outscored Indiana by four points in the first quarter while both teams put up 32 points in the second frame. It was the Hornets who led 64-60 at halftime.
A genuinely poor third-quarter performance dug the Pacers into a deeper hole than necessary entering the final period. Indiana trailed 91-80 early in the fourth quarter and used a 14-3 run to tie it up with 5:27 left to play.
The outcome of this game was ultimately decided by the execution of the Hornets within the final few minutes. Indiana's offense tightened up while they struggled to stay attached to shooting threats on the other end. The Hornets scored 10 points in the final 2:07 to ensure victory.
Here are three things to like and dislike from Friday's game:
LIKE: Balanced Scoring Contributions
With key players like TJ Warren and Caris LeVert sidelined indefinitely, the Pacers need their top scoring options to raise their contributions and sustain them to ensure success. Indiana seems to be getting by just fine with Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, and Myles Turner stepping up.
Turner has really managed to hit a stride in Nate Bjorkgren's offensive system. He finished with 20 points and was 9-of-14 (64.3%) from the field despite going 2-of-7 (28.6%) from the perimeter. He's been given the green light to shoot from deep and has thrived as a cutter and at getting downhill off the dribble.
Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon have routinely been the top scorers for the Pacers throughout this season. Both players thrived once again. Sabonis finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists. Meanwhile, Brogdon had 21 points, four rebounds, and eight assists.
DISLIKE: Perimeter Shooting Disadvantage
There was a clear disadvantage the Pacers faced in the perimeter shooting department in this game. Indiana finished just 11-of-35 (31.4%) from deep while the Hornets went 16-of-37 (43.2%). Overall, Charlotte outscored the Pacers by a 15-point margin in this one area.
The Pacers had several key players experience struggling results that proved to be too much to overcome. Malcolm Brogdon went 3-of-10 (30.0%), Myles Turner was 2-of-7 (28.6%), and Justin Holiday made just 2-of-8 (25.0%) and were Indiana's highest-volume perimeter shooters.
Toward the end of the game, the Pacers' inability to stay attached to the Hornets' perimeter shooting threats was particularly costly. After Indiana took a 103-102 lead with 1:31 left to play, Charlotte got free from deep and converted on consecutive three-point attempts.
LIKE: Fourth Quarter Run
It appeared as though the Pacers were at risk of being put away by the Hornets entering the fourth quarter. Indiana had a poor third quarter offensively and needed a major run to overcome a nine-point disadvantage to start the final frame.
The Pacers may have failed to execute in the final two minutes at a sufficient level worthy of getting the win, but they at least clawed back to have that opportunity. Perhaps most intriguing of all, the 14-3 run that Indiana put together was achieved with Goga Bitadze and Domantas Sabonis sharing the floor.
Indiana went with a big lineup to combat Charlotte's decision to go with a small ball group. Domantas Sabonis was able to thrive with his size in the paint and drew enough extra attention to get shooters open out on the perimeter. This wasn't enough to win, but it was intriguing, nevertheless.
DISLIKE: Some Defensive Shortcomings
With the emphasis from the Pacers being to contain Gordon Hayward, the Hornets received elevated production from other key players. Charlotte had five other players reach double-figure scoring and had 35 assists as a team.
The Hornets decided to shake things up a bit when it came to their lineup choices. Before the game, it was made clear that Charlotte would look to involve PJ Washington more as a small-ball center in this game and they found success doing so.
Even when the Hornets didn't go small, they made it a point to push the pace against a Pacers defense who often had slower personnel. LaMelo Ball Terry Rozier, and Devonte' Graham each made Indiana pay in that regard.
LIKE: Quality Ball Movement
With Victor Oladipo now long gone from the lineup, the Pacers have embraced an unselfish brand of basketball. The results are showing, too. Indiana was moving the ball early and often en route to 30 assists. Now, they've had at least 30 assists in back-to-back games.
While the Pacers struggled to convert at an efficient clip from the perimeter, they did manage to create plenty of clean looks. In fact, 34 of their 35 attempts from deep were considered 'open' shots -- meaning there were at least four feet of space from the shooter and the nearest defender.
There was no shortage of quality passes made to teammates going towards the rim, too. Indiana has really begun finding success working the ball to cutters within their half-court offense and creating quality driving lanes for players off the catch.
DISLIKE: Execution in Clutch Time
The Pacers struggled to execute against the Hornets on Friday, whether it involved getting stops or scoring. Indiana scored just five minutes within the game's final three minutes while allowing Charlotte to score 10 of their own.
Indiana struggled to make shots during the final three minutes of action -- converting on just 2-of-6 (33.3%) from the field. The Pacers relied on Malcolm Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb down the stretch but they struggled to put the ball in the basket.
The opposite was the case for the Hornets. They managed to go 4-of-7 (57.1%) on their shot attempts -- including the two pivotal makes from beyond the arc that ultimately ensured their victory.